World

US, Britain blame Russia for global cyber attacks

US, Britain say Russians hacked routers, firewalls, equipment used by government agencies, businesses and critical infrastructure operators

The US and Britain on Monday accused Russia of launching cyber attacks on computer routers, firewalls and other networking equipment used by government agencies, businesses and critical infrastructure operators around the globe.

Washington and London issued a joint alert saying the campaign by Russian government-backed hackers was intended to advance spying, intellectual property theft and other "malicious" activities and could be escalated to launch offensive attacks.

It followed a series of warnings by Western governments that Moscow is behind a string of cyber attacks. The US, Britain and other nations in February accused Russia of releasing the "NotPetya" virus, which in 2017 crippled parts of Ukraine's infrastructure and damaged computers across the globe, costing companies billions of dollars.

Russia's embassy in London issued a statement citing British accusations of cyber threats from Moscow as "examples of a reckless, provocative and unfounded policy against Russia".

Moscow has denied previous accusations that it carried out cyber attacks on the US and other countries.

US intelligence agencies last year accused Russia of interfering in the 2016 election with a hacking and propaganda campaign supporting Mr Donald Trump's campaign for president.

POWER GRID

Last month, the Trump administration blamed Russia for a campaign of cyber attacks that targeted the US power grid.

American and British officials said the attacks disclosed on Monday affected a range of organisations including Internet service providers, private businesses and critical infrastructure providers.

"When we see malicious cyber activity, whether it be from the Kremlin or other malicious nation-state actors, we are going to push back," said Mr Rob Joyce, the White House cyber security coordinator.

He will be leaving his post and returning to the US National Security Agency.

Relations between Russia and Britain were already on edge after Prime Minister Theresa May blamed Moscow for the March 4 nerve agent poisoning of former Russian spy Sergei Skripal and his daughter Yulia in the city of Salisbury.

Britain and the US said they issued the new alert to help targets protect themselves and persuade victims to share information with government investigators so they can better understand the threat.

US and British officials also warned that infected routers could be used to launch future offensive cyber operations.

"They could be pre-positioning for use in times of tension," said Mr Ciaran Martin, chief executive of the British government's National Cyber Security Centre. - REUTERS

WORLD