UK and U.S. warn of Russian cyber-security threat

In an unprecedented joint alert, the U.S. and UK governments warned of the renewed threat of Russian cyber attacks.

The U.S. Department of Homeland Security,  the Federal Bureau of Investigation, and the UK’s National Cyber Security Centre released a joint Technical Alert providing “information on the worldwide cyber exploitation of network infrastructures” by Russia.

The primary targets of a wide-ranging cyber attack, according to the UK National Cyber Security Centre,are likely to be “government and private-sector organisations, critical infrastructure providers, and the internet service providers (ISPs) supporting these sectors.”

Crucial infrastructure components, such as routers, switches, firewalls and Network-based Intrusion Detection System (NIDS) devices, also face disruption.

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While authorities in the UK and U.S. have long known of Russian attempts to infiltrate computer networks, the alert hopes to identify and eliminate weaknesses, as well as spurring government agencies and businesses to protect themselves. According to the New York Times, the alert also functions as a threat of retaliation against Moscow if damage is done.

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In a conference call with journalists, Rob Joyce, the White House cyber security coordinator, said “When we see malicious cyber activity, whether it be from the Kremlin or other malicious nation-state actors, we are going to push back”.

Russia has employed “a campaign of cyber espionage and aggression, which attempts to disrupt governments and destabilize business,” a British government spokesman said in London.

In response, the Russian embassy in London issued a statement criticising the accusations as “striking examples of a reckless, provocative and unfounded policy against Russia.”

The Kremlin has been previously implicated in a number of international cyber attacks. In September 2017, Russian hacker Peter Levashov was arrested in Spain on a U.S. warrant and said he had worked for President Vladimir Putin’s ruling United Russia party.

Levashov was extradited to the U.S. and charged with hacking offences accusing him of operating a network of tens of thousands of infected computers used by cyber criminals. U.S. prosecutors are seeking a 52-year jail sentence; Levashov denies the charges against him.

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