UK hits out at Russian cyber hack on thousands of Brits

Posted On: 
17th April 2018

The Government has accused Russia of a large-scale cyber hack targeting thousands of British households.

The Government is concerned that tens-of-thousands of home routers could have been targeted by man-in-the-middle attacks
Credit: 
PA Images

In an unprecedented step, spies from the UK and US joined forces to claim Kremlin-backed hackers are targeting tens-of-thousands of computers in the UK, including NHS and household systems, in readiness for a possible major cyber attack.

The warning comes as fears grow of Russian retaliation in the wake of the coalition bombing of targets in Syria over the weekend.

Amber Rudd: UK cyber defences will be tested in major security war game

Cyber resilience is vital to navigate a new digital reality - Atkins

Boris Johnson pledges 'cyber task force' to root out Russian social media trolls

And it was revealed by The Times that MPs could also be affected – after some in Labour were sent a warning on Sunday that illicit attempts had been made to access their parliamentary email accounts.

The heads of the National Cyber Security Centre in the UK and the Department of Homeland Security and FBI in the US said they were “confident” that Russia was to blame for coordinating the so-called ‘man-in-the-middle’ hacks.

It means hackers can sit undetected on internet routers and other technology where they can passively gather emails, passwords and internet history, before using the infected hardware for co-ordinated offensive strikes.

The Prime Minister hit out at the global hacking operation, which is believed to have affected millions of computers worldwide.

She told MPs in the Commons: “Everybody should think very carefully about the role Russia is playing, not just in Syria but also destabilising activities, propaganda, and cyber attacks.”

A Government spokesperson said the operation was “another example of Russia’s disregard for international norms and global order”.

“The attribution of this malicious activity sends a clear message to Russia – we know what you are doing and you will not succeed," they said.

“This Government will stand steadfast alongside its allies to counter this threat and our world-leading experts at the National Cyber Security Centre will continue to strengthen our cyber security capabilities and protect UK interests.”

National Cyber Security Centre director Ciaran Martin said blaming Russia for the hostile hacking was a “significant moment in the transatlantic fightback against Russian aggression in cyber security”.

He added: “We have been tracking some of these attacks for around a year and the attack groups behind them for longer than that.

“In terms of the scale, there are millions of machines that have been globally targeted.

“It’s about trying to gain control over the devices to allow them not just to spy on the primary organisation but the organisations they connect to.”

The revelations come a week after Home Secretary Amber Rudd announced “the UK's first live national cyber crime exercise” to try and beef up the nation's cyber capabilities.

She said it would “test the response of our security and intelligence agencies, police and first-responders, in the event of a large-scale cyber incident”.