Safe from Russian hacks?

As the Kremlin denies involvement in hacking, are we safe from Russian hacks?


Russian cyber attacks: Are we in the midst of a new Cold War?

Nothing is as easy, or alluring, as an apt historical comparison.

So, when the Foreign Office releases a list of "reckless and indiscriminate" Russian cyber attacks, the images come swiftly to mind: Stalin, Kennedy, the Bay of Pigs, the Berlin Wall.

But before we declare a new Cold War, we would be wise to pause. Thinking in analogue terms may be precisely what gets us into trouble.

The foreign secretary is clearly alert to this danger.

In his statement on Wednesday, he notes that several of the cyber attacks damaged Russian institutions as well as foreign ones.

He blames the GRU, the Russian military intelligence service, not the Russian people. This is not in any sense a declaration of war.

It is, however, a clear warning, one that deserves to be taken extremely seriously.

The Foreign Office statement contains little news; Russian military intelligence was already linked to most of the attacks it lists. But it confirms what has been suspected for some time.

Not only are Russian agents spreading fake news and propaganda through social networks, but its teams of hackers are worming their way into key Western institutions, leaving destruction and demoralisation in their wake.

Britain is significantly increasing its ability to wage war in cyberspace To put it mildly, this is very worrying.

The announcement also highlights a further worry: the difficulty of dealing with cyber aggression.

Seeing the attacks collected together, what is striking is their sheer range.

The targets include everything from a UK television station, to the United States Democratic Party, to Ukrainian metro lines - a group united only by the fact that they use digital systems.

Here, in a nutshell, is the danger. If anything that uses a computer can be attacked, then what are the limits for an assailant?

Naming Russia as a perpetrator offers cybersecurity its #MeToo moment

Then there is what military strategists refer to as "asymmetry".

Put simply, cyber tools give weak states the opportunity to strike against powerful ones.

Isolated, impoverished North Korea can deploy a hack that brings down a large swathe of the NHS. Russia, a fallen superpower hamstrung by economic sanctions, can reach deep into foreign territory with the click of a mouse.

Yet although it is tempting to spin out scenarios in which cyber attacks shut off banks or power plants, we should note that few of these attacks have (so far) come to pass.

The attacks listed by the Foreign Office were mainly aimed at political institutions, often with the aim of spying or leaking documents. They were intended to de-legitimise political and social systems, not provoke outright war.

In a speech earlier this year, the head of the British Army coined a phrase to describe this kind of attack.

Cyber, said General Sir Nicholas Carter, was a "weapon system" which was "exploiting the seams between peace and war".

Other similar systems included bribery, corrupt business practices and assassinations such as the attempted killing of Sergey and Yulia Skripal.

These weapons systems, General Carter explained, were not fired and targeted in the same way as guns or missiles. Instead, they seeped out slowly, weakening an adversary until it was no longer able to respond.

"The risk we run," he said, "is that rather like a chronic contagious disease, it will creep up on us, and our ability to act will be markedly constrained; and we'll be the losers of this competition."

By making the GRU's actions public in this way, the government is presumably hoping to stir its NATO allies to avoid this fate.

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Safe from Russian hacks?

By Jim Scott

Russia has had chequered relations with the UK and US. Described as having a "cool" feeling amongst the countries, the recent Novichok poisonings in Salisbury earlier this year haven't helped things either claims The Daily Mirror.

On Thursday October 4, the UK government claimed Russia’s military intelligence, the GRU were behind major cyber-attacks, which caused widespread disruption. But as Russia denies involvement from the Kremlin, will we ever be safe from Russian hacks?

The UK government accused Russia of four cyber-attacks. The first, in August 2015 when email accounts belonging to an independent UK-based TV station were accessed. The second, in 2016 when the Democratic National Committee, which helps party candidates during US elections, was hacked and documents published online. The third, in August 2017 when medical notes belonging to athletes, held by the Anti-Doping Administration and Management system, were released. And most recently, in October 2017 when ransomware permanently shut-down computers and encrypted hundreds of hard-drives.

Foreign secretary, Jeremy Hunt said: "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."

Mr Hunt also pledged to expose the GRU in future: "Our message is clear, together with our allies, we will expose and respond to the GRU's attempts to undermine international stability."

Over summer Russian hackers gained remote access, through a series of hacks, to the control rooms of US power plants, the Wall Street Journal reports. Russian hackers known in their groups as Dragonfly or Energetic Bear, sent emails to senior management which once opened allowed malware to take over. The Wall Street Journal said attacks could have resulted in power supplies being "cut out".

Russia has denied any such involvement, instead the Financial Times reports Russia has blamed its own military intelligence agency for the "string" of cyber-attacks across the world.

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. 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

But Russia's integrity has been questioned. Last month it was reported by The Independent that the social-networking platform Instagram had been "hit" by hundreds of hacks, traced back to locations in Russia. The hack meant users were locked out of their accounts, unable to share photos whilst they reported their display picture and usernames were altered.

The credibility of Russia's protestations of innocence isn't helped by its track record. In September, American news networks confirmed the extradition of a Russian hacker attributed to the "largest" theft of customer data from a financial institution in the country's history. Andrei Tyurin had allegedly hacked New York's JP Morgan and obtained personal details from more than 80 million people, CNN reports.

Meanwhile the Russian threat could intensify. reports a turn back to the dark ages could be a possibility if Russia ever decide to sabotage undersea internet cables.

The severing of internet cables could see the rise of "national intranets" if the worst happens, The Fast Company explains. But again, contingencies have been allegedly put in place, as it was announced in 2014, the European Union and Brazil planned to lay undersea cables worth $185 million between the continents. NATO has allegedly planned a Cold War-era command post in the North Atlantic which to try and guarantee the safety of the cables.

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New York Post

Russia denies Microsoft's hacking allegations as 'political games'

MOSCOW — The Russian authorities deny allegations from Microsoft that hackers linked to Russia’s government tried to target the websites of two right-wing US think tanks, the Interfax news agency reported Tuesday.

The software giant said it had thwarted the Russia-linked attempts last week, which it suggested showed Moscow was broadening its attacks in the buildup to November elections.

Interfax cited an unnamed Russian diplomatic source Tuesday as describing Microsoft’s allegations as part of a political game.

“Microsoft is playing political games,” it cited the source as saying. “The (midterm US) elections have not happened yet, but there are already allegations.”

Microsoft was acting like a prosecutor rather than a private company, Interfax quoted the source as adding.

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