Putin threatening ‘high-risk cyber attacks’ says expert

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The news comes after cyber security leaders from the Five Eyes met with other international allies yesterday to discuss cyber threats facing the world. Five Eyes is an intelligence partnership comprising Australia, Canada, New Zealand, the UK and the US. Their latest meeting was held in Newport, Wales, during the National Cyber Security Centre (NCSC)’s CYBERUK 2022 conference.

Russian Military Intelligence was “almost certainly” involved in both the defacement of Ukrainian government websites and the deployment of destructive WhisperGate malware against Ukraine on January 13, the Foreign Office announced yesterday.

WhisperGate is a set of malware that contains a malicious bootloader that enters a machine’s working memory after start-up and corrupts local data storage, a file downloader and also a file wiper.

According to experts with the NCSC, Russia was also almost certainly responsible for the cyberattack against the high-speed satellite broadband firm Viasat that occurred around one hour before Vladimir Putin launched his invasion of Ukraine on February 24.

This attack is reported to have involved a piece of malware dubbed “AcidRain” which bricks devices by wiping their data storage before forcing a reboot.

Viasat has said that the result of the destructive incursion into their systems is that “tens of thousands of terminals have been damaged, made inoperable and cannot be repaired”.

It is believed that the primary target of the Viasat cyberattack was the Ukrainian military.

However, the action had wider consequences, impacting both personal and commercial internet users across the continent.

Wind farms in central Europe are also reported to have been affected by the attack.

According to the Independent, US Secretary of State Antony Blinken said that the cyberattack was intended “to disrupt Ukrainian command and control during the invasion, and those actions had spillover impacts into other European countries”.

UK Foreign Secretary Liz Truss said: “This is clear and shocking evidence of a deliberate and malicious attack by Russia against Ukraine.”

The attack, she added, “had significant consequences on ordinary people and businesses in Ukraine and across Europe.

“We will continue to call out Russia’s malign behaviour and unprovoked aggression across land, sea and cyberspace.”

The UK, she concluded, will ensure that Russia “faces severe consequences”.

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According to the Foreign Office, the UK has already sanctioned the Russian military intelligence agency for its involvement in the poisoning of Sergei and Yulia Skripal in Salisbury in early March 2018.

Mr Skripal — a former Russian military officer and double agent for British intelligence — and his daughter were targeted with the nerve agent Novichok, but recovered.

The UK has also delivered sanctions against oligarchs and their family members who have helped to fund Putin’s war machine, the Foreign Office noted.

This has included the freezing of more than £940billion of bank assets and £117billion in personal net worth.

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