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Nato urged to take action over Russian cyber hacking

Nato must take greater action against Russia's use of cyber warfare against other nations, Britain's most senior alliance commander has warned.

General Sir Adrian Bradshaw, the deputy supreme allied commander, said President Vladimir Putin could seek to replicate the unconventional tactics used to destabilise Crimea before its annexation by Moscow in 2014.

The danger, he said, was that the Kremlin would create a situation where it believed it could use its military power to “finalise the deal”.

While the risk of a slide into military confrontation between Nato and Russia was small, the consequences if it happened would be “catastrophic”.

“The concern is that by a combination of means Russia gets themselves in a position where they see an opportunity to employ the military arm of power and that could be incredibly dangerous,” Gen Bradshaw told the BBC.

“We have seen it in Crimea - a combination of unconventional military and non-military means including cyber warfare, political agitation, economic leverage - where military forces then closed in to finalise the deal.

“The risk of a slide into a military confrontation with Russia is small - very small - but because the consequences would be catastrophic we have absolutely got to deal with that risk.”

Gen Bradshaw’s comments echo a recent warning by Defence Secretary Sir Michael Fallon that Russia was “weaponising misinformation” in a sustained campaign of destabilisation against the West. 

In a speech last month, he accused Moscow of using cyber weaponry to “disrupt critical infrastructure and disable democratic machinery” in a series of attacks on western countries.

Russia was also blamed for an attack on a power distribution station near Kiev, the capital of Ukraine in December. 

Meanwhile, Australia is to launch the world’s first university course to train intelligence analysts to fight cyber-crime, prompted by innovative methods of money transfer among organised crime and militant groups.

The measure expands on Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull’s attempts to ratchet up policing of money transfers amid concerns that organised crime and militant groups are using technology such as the “dark web” and cryptocurrencies to make their payments hard to trace.

In the past year, Turnbull has expanded the role of money-tracking agency the Australian Transaction Reports and Analysis Centre (AUSTRAC) and agreed to share financial crime intelligence with China.

On Friday, Justice Minister Michael Keenan said AUSTRAC would start teaching the world’s first university-accredited “Financial Intelligence Analyst Course” after 16 law enforcement analysts sat a pilot course.

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