cyber security

Russian cyber-attacks have struck the UK, government official says

Cyber-attacks originating from Russia have hit Britain's energy networks, media and telecommunications in the past year, according to remarks by the head of the government's main cyber defence agency.

Moscow is “seeking to undermine the international system” and its activities are a “cause for concern”, Ciaran Martin, the head of the National Cyber Security Centre (NCSC), is expected to tell tech chiefs later today.

The remarks follow comments on Monday from Prime Minister Theresa May in which she accused Russia of spreading disinformation and meddling in elections, echoing a heated debate in the USA over alleged Russian interference in the 2016 presidential election.

Speaking at the Times Tech Summit in London, Martin will say: “I can’t get into precise details of intelligence matter, but I can confirm that Russian interference, seen by the National Cyber Security Centre over the past year, has included attacks on the UK media, telecommunications and energy sectors.”

He will add: “Russia is seeking to undermine the international system. That much is clear. The PM made the point on Monday night – international order as we know it is in danger of being eroded.”

The NCSC, a branch of GCHQ, has been in operation for a year and is charged with shoring up cyber security by working with a wide range of stakeholders. It is currently “actively engaging” international partners, industry and civil society to tackle the threat, Martin will say.

Since its launch last year, the NCSC has blocked tens of millions of cyber attacks and responded to 590 incidents – including the WannaCry attack which hit the NHS.

That attack has been blamed on hackers linked to North Korea, but it is Russia that Whitehall is most concerned about.

On Monday night, the Prime Minister told Russian President Vladimir Putin “we know what you are doing” and insisted he would not succeed.

Attacking Moscow at the Lord Mayor’s Banquet at the City of London’s Guildhall, May accused the Kremlin of being behind “a sustained campaign of cyber espionage and disruption”.

In September, security firm Symantec said that a massive cyber-espionage campaign had successfully broken into the core systems of energy companies in the US and Europe.

Symantec did not name Russia in its report but noted that the attackers used code strings that were in Russian.

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