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UK accuses Russian FSB of multi-year campaign of cyber-attacks

by Nate Ostiller December 7, 2023 3:52 PM 2 min read
Russia's Federal Security Service (FSB) headquarters in Moscow. (Alex Segre/UCG/Universal Images Group via Getty Images)
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The British National Cyber Security Center (NCSC) accused on Dec. 7 Russia's Federal Security Service (FSB) of a lengthy campaign of cyber attacks against the U.K. dating back at least to 2015 and involving "attempted political interference."

Russia has been repeatedly accused of backing cyber-crime groups in attacks against its rivals. Moscow has also deployed its cyber capabilities against Ukraine, including attacks on government institutions, the defense sector, and energy infrastructure.

The NCSC identified a group of hackers named Star Blizzard, which it said is "almost certainly subordinate to...(the FSB)."

Star Blizzard's cyber activities included phishing attacks on U.K. lawmakers, leaking of secret U.K.-U.S. trade documents, and hacking into the accounts of institutions and individuals from the U.K.'s civil society.

The group also "selectively leaked" information from its cyber-attacks and weaponized their publication, in part to undermine "trust in politics in the U.K.," the NCSC said.

U.K. Foreign Secretary David Cameron said that "the attempts to interfere in U.K. politics are completely unacceptable and seek to threaten our democratic processes," but added that "despite their repeated efforts, they have failed."

U.K. Home Secretary James Cleverly also commented on the cyber campaign, saying that an "attack against our democratic institutions is an attack on our most fundamental British values and freedoms."

Russia has sought to weaponize disinformation to further its geopolitical goals in other cases. The Finnish media outlet YLE reported on Dec. 4, citing sources, that Russian intelligence had planned a series of disruptive activities to try to prevent, or at least hinder, Sweden and Finland's accession to NATO, in part by trying to stoke discord with Turkey.

The NCSC report was the second such allegation of Russian hacking attempts against the U.K. in the last week. The Guardian revealed on Dec. 4 that Russian and Chinese-linked cyber groups had been implicated in a multi-year hacking program at Sellafield, a major nuclear waste site in the U.K.

The U.K. acknowledged that Russia's cyber attacks against the West will likely continue despite the Dec. 7 revelations. The NCSC also published a series of steps users can take to improve online security and mitigate the threat posed by Russian hacking campaigns.

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