UK accuses ‘pariah state’ Russia of global hacking campaign

UK’s defence minister says Russia employed cyber attacks to further its foreign policy.

Russia hacking US voting system
The US has gone as far as to indict 12 Russians for hacking the 2016 presidential election [Nati Harnik/AP Photo]

Britain’s Secretary of State for Defence Gavin Williamson has called Russia a “pariah state” after London accused Kremlin spies of mounting a campaign of cyber attacks on civilian bodies around the world.

Cyber experts from the United Kingdom identified operatives from Russia’s GRU military intelligence to be behind a string of high-profile incidents, including an attempted hack on the World Anti-Doping Agency last year.

As Williamson arrived for talks in Brussels with his NATO counterparts, he said Moscow’s “reckless and indiscriminate” attacks left it isolated in the international community.

“This is not the actions of a great power, this is the actions of a pariah state and we’ll continue working with allies to isolate, make them understand they cannot continue to conduct themselves in such a way,” Williamson told reporters.

The UK’s National Cyber Security Centre (NCSC) has “high confidence” that the GRU was “almost certainly” responsible for a number of attacks, including the targeting of the US Democratic Party ahead of the 2016 presidential election, according to sources in London

The GRU headquarters in Moscow is home to some of Russia's best intelligence operatives [File: Ivan Sekretarev/AP Photo]
The GRU headquarters in Moscow is home to some of Russia’s best intelligence operatives [File: Ivan Sekretarev/AP Photo]

Al Jazeera’s Rory Challand, reporting from Moscow, said: “Russia has been accused by numerous countries [including the US, Estonia and now the UK] over the years of being responsible for cybersecurity attacks”.

NATO is stepping up efforts to strengthen its resources to counter electronic warfare, with the United States set to announce it is making offensive cyber capabilities available to the alliance.

Asked three times whether the UK would consider hitting back at Russia with cyber attacks of its own, Williamson said that being named and shamed was a deterrent in itself.

“We’re going to make it clear where Russia acts that we are going to be exposing that action and we believe that by doing so this will act as a disincentive to act in such a way in the future,” Williamson responded.

Ties between the UK and Russia are at rock bottom after a nerve agent attack targeting former Kremlin agent Sergei Skripal in the English city of Salisbury.

London has blamed Moscow for the attack, which left one person dead, and last month the British-based investigative group Bellingcat identified one of the suspects as a highly decorated GRU colonel.

Source: Al Jazeera, News Agencies