Published: Tue, April 17, 2018
People | By Neil Grant

US, Britain warn of Russian campaign to hack networks

US, Britain warn of Russian campaign to hack networks

In a joint statement, the US Department of Homeland Security (DHS), Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) and the UK's National Cyber Security Centre (NCSC) - the cyber arm of GCHQ - said Kremlin-backed hackers are using exploits to carry out malicious attacks.

State-sponsored Russian hackers are actively seeking to hijack essential internet hardware, USA and United Kingdom intelligence agencies say. For this reason, we can not rule out that Russian may intend to use this set of compromises for future offensive cyber operations as well.

This could be used be used to mount a future offensive, it warned.

And two: "Encourage industry to secure the devices we depend on", White House cybersecurity coordinator Rob Joyce said.

No sanctions or penalties were announced Monday, and the alert is unrelated to expected sanctions on Russian Federation in coming days, though Joyce reiterated that "all elements of USA power are available to push back" on such hacking efforts. The attack strategy let Russian Federation peer at the data passing through the compromised devices, whether that be business or intelligence-related. Attackers also sought to undermine the firewalls and intrusion detection systems organisations used to spot malicious traffic before it reached users.

There were reports that the Pentagon had detected a 2,000% increase in Russian-linked bots on social media in the hours after Saturday's strikes.

"For over twenty years, GCHQ has been tracking the key Russian cyber-attack groups and today's joint UK-US alert shows that the threat has not gone away".

Britain's relations with Russia are at a historic low, after it blamed Russia for a nerve agent attack on former Russian spy Sergei Skripal and his daughter Yulia in Salisbury, Wiltshire, prompting mass expulsions of diplomats.

What no-one is quite sure of is whether this creates a deterrent a bit like mutually assured nuclear destruction in the Cold War.

"We assess the goals of the campaign include espionage and intellectual property theft", he said.

"They could be pre-positioning for use in times of tension", Ciaran Martin, head of the British government's National Cyber Security Center said, adding that "millions of machines" used to move traffic across the net were targeted.

"Many of the techniques used by Russian Federation exploit basic weaknesses in network systems".

American and British officials said the attacks affected a wide range of organizations including internet service providers, private businesses and critical infrastructure providers. Lastly, the alert outlined what erratic hardware behavior should indicate if a device has been already compromised.

The UK was working with America, its other allies and the technology industry to "expose Russia's unacceptable cyber-behaviour, so they are held accountable for their actions", said Mr Martin.

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