UK says it warned 16 NATO allies of Russian hacking activities

UK warns of Russian global hacking campaign targeting critical infrastructure and government networks.

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The UK has shared information on Russian hacking attacks with 16 NATO allies over the last 18 months, a British government official said today.

"I can disclose that in the last 18 months, the National Cyber Security Centre has shared information and assessments with 16 NATO Allies - and even more nations outside the Alliance - of Russian cyber activity in their countries," said Britain Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs Jeremy Hunt in a speech at the National Cyber Security Centre today.

Hunt said "Russia's intelligence services are targeting the critical national infrastructure of many countries in order to look for vulnerabilities."

"This global campaign also seeks to compromise central government networks," the British official added.

"We have regularly provided technical knowledge to help our partners to counter the threat."

Deterrence is the key

While on the topic, Hunt has urged nations to band together and create a deterrent for state-sponsored hackers to attack other countries. The UK and its intelligence partners have been slowly moving to a name-and-shame approach when dealing with cyber-attacks.

To help this new strategy, last week, the EU passed new rules that would make it possible for EU member states to impose economic sanctions against foreign hackers attacking the EU bloc.

The UK and the Netherlands were the two EU countries who heavily advocated for the new rules, it was reported.

"Together, NATO countries have become better at defending themselves against dangers in cyber space," Hunt said.

"But we should not be content with just making ourselves tougher targets - crucial though that is. Our primary goal must be to deter this kind of behaviour from happening in the first place," the official added.

Previously, the UK was one of the few countries who formally accused Russia for being behind the NotPetya ransomware outbreak.

In April 2018, home secretary Amber Rudd said the UK had been hit by 49 cyber-attacks from Russian groups in the previous six months.

In 2016, NATO declared "cyber" an official battlefield in modern warfare.

"We can and must do more to improve our response," Hunt said. "In particular, we should be more emphatic about what we consider to be unacceptable behaviour and the consequences for any breach of international law."

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