UK discloses ‘reckless’ campaign of Russian cyber attacks

The UK government has disclosed a ‘reckless’ campaign of Russian cyber attacks targeting political institutions, businesses, media, and sport.

In findings by the National Cyber Security Centre, a number of international attacks have been linked to Russian intelligence agency GRU.

The attacks, it claims, have affected citizens in a large number of countries – including Russia – and cost national economies millions of pounds.

UK Foreign Secretary Jeremy Hunt said:

“These cyber attacks serve no legitimate national security interest. Instead, impacting the ability of people around the world to go about their daily lives free from interference and even their ability to enjoy sports.

The GRU’s actions are reckless and indiscriminate: they try to undermine and interfere in elections in other countries; they are even prepared to damage Russian companies and Russian citizens. This pattern of behaviour demonstrates their desire to operate without regard to international law or established norms and to do so with a feeling of impunity and without consequences.

Our message is clear: together with our allies, we will expose and respond to the GRU’s attempts to undermine international stability.”

Recklessness has often been used to describe Russia’s actions in recent years. Whether it’s cyber attacks, use of chemical weapons, annexations, sea and air incursions into foreign territory, or assassinations.

Earlier this year, a poisoning of former agent Sergei Skripal and his daughter in Salisbury, UK – using banned nerve agent Novichok – was linked to a Kremlin assassination attempt. The Kremlin denied the allegations.

British citizens Dawn Sturgess and Charlie Rowley later came into contact with the bottle used for the poisoning. Sturgess never recovered from her poisoning.

Following the identification of the suspects, Ruslan Boshirov and Alexander Petrov, the pair were interviewed on Russian state broadcaster RT. In the interview, they claimed to have only been visiting Salisbury cathedral.

Investigators from Bellingcat discovered the real identity of Boshirov as GRU Colonel Anatoliy Chepiga. The officer is highly-decorated and was bestowed with Russia’s highest state award – ‘Hero of the Russian Federation’.

During the initial aftermath of the poisoning, Russian President Vladimir Putin was asked about Sergei’s discharge from Salisbury District Hospital.

Mr Putin said: "God grant him good health, if a military-grade poison had been used, the man would have died on the spot. Thank God he recovered and that he left [hospital]."

Dutch security services expelled four Russian spies this week over a foiled attempt targeting the international chemical weapons watchdog, during its investigations into Salisbury. Four Russian men, found with specialist equipment near the OPCW headquarters, were arrested on the 13th of April.

Following the release of more conclusive evidence, Putin’s well-wishing tone about Sergei appears to have changed.

Speaking at an energy forum in Moscow yesterday, the Russian president said: “He was simply a spy. A traitor to the motherland. There is such a concept – a traitor to the motherland. He was one of those.”

“He’s simply a scumbag, that’s all.”

Several other Russians considered state traitors have died under questionable circumstances on British soil.

Alexander Litvinenko, a British naturalised Russian defector and former officer of the Russian FSB secret service, was fatally poisoned with radioactive polonium-210 administered in a cup of tea.

Following the Salisbury poisoning, the UK’s allies expelled dozens of diplomats and undisclosed Russian intelligence officers. The US closed a Russian embassy in Seattle.

In a statement, the UK government wrote: “Today, the UK and its allies are once again united in demonstrating that the international community will stand up against irresponsible cyber attacks by other governments and that we will work together to respond to them.”

Interested in hearing industry leaders discuss subjects like this and sharing their experiences and use-cases? Attend the Cyber Security & Cloud Expo World Series with upcoming events in Silicon Valley, London, and Amsterdam.

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