UK blames Russian military for ‘reckless’ cyber attacks

UK blames Russian military for ‘reckless’ cyber attacks

(CNN)The British and Australian governments have accused Russian military intelligence of carrying out a worldwide campaign of “indiscriminate and reckless” cyber attacks, including the hacking of the US Democratic National Committee in 2016.

British Foreign Secretary Jeremy Hunt said in a statement that the country’s National Cyber Security Centre had found that a number of hackers whose cyber attacks are believed to have cost the global economy millions of dollars were in fact Russian GRU intelligence service operatives.

“The GRU’s actions are reckless and indiscriminate: they try to undermine and interfere in elections in other countries; they are even prepared to damage Russian companies and Russian citizens,” Hunt said in the statement.

“This pattern of behaviour demonstrates their desire to operate without regard to international law or established norms and to do so with a feeling of impunity and without consequences.”

In statements Thursday, British and Australian authorities attributed a series of high profile cyber attacks to GRU-backed hackers, including attacks on the servers of the Democratic National Committee in 2016 in the lead up to the US presidential election; a 2017 ransomware attack that targeted Russian news agencies, operations at a metro in the Ukrainian capital of Kiev and an airport in the city of Odessa; and the 2016 confidential files of international athletes stolen from the World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA).

The allegations come in the wake of the poisoning of Russian double agent Sergei Skripal in the British city of Salisbury earlier this year. UK authorities have accused the GRU of being behind the poisoning of Skripal, himself a former Russian agent.

When asked about the Salisbury case Wednesday at an energy forum in Moscow, Russian President Vladimir Putin called Skripal a “traitor” and a “scumbag” and suggested the incident was being “artificially blown up” by the media.

Hunt said in a strongly worded statement that “these cyber attacks serve no legitimate national security interest, instead impacting the ability of people around the world to go about their daily lives free from interference, and even their ability to enjoy sport.”

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In a separate statement, the Australian government said, based on advice from Australia’s intelligence agency and after consultation with its allies, it had determined that Russia’s military and the GRU were behind the attacks.

“While Australia was not significantly impacted, this activity affected the ability of the public in other parts of the world to go about their daily lives,” Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison and Foreign Affairs Minister Marise Payne said in a joint statement.

“Cyberspace is not the Wild West. The International Community — including Russia — has agreed that international law and norms of responsible state behavior apply in cyberspace.”

The Kremlin has not responded to the British and Australia allegations, but Russian leaders have consistently denied many of the hacks attributed to Moscow, including allegations that it meddled in the 2016 US elections.

The US intelligence community has concluded that Russia did in fact in attempt to interfere in the 2016 presidential elections, and a handful of top national security officials said in August that Russia is continuing to pursue similar efforts.

CNN’s Sarah Faidell, Nina Dos Santos and Milena Veselinovic contributed to this report


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