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UK accuses Russia’s FSB of years-long cyber attacks

The NCSC identifies Star Blizzard as likely part of Russia’s FSB, engaged in cyber-attacks since 2015. Activities include spear-phishing UK MPs, leaking 2019 election documents, and targeting key institutions like the Institute for Statecraft.
Credit: RIA Novosti

The United Kingdom has formally accused Russia’s Federal Security Service (FSB) of orchestrating a prolonged cyber-hacking operation aimed at disrupting UK politics and democratic processes. UK’s National Cyber Security Centre (NCSC) announced this information on 6 December.

The NCSC has identified Star Blizzard, a group engaged in cyber operations against high-profile individuals and entities, as almost certainly subordinate to Russia’s FSB Centre 18. The malicious activities, ongoing since at least 2015, include spear-phishing attacks on UK parliamentarians, leaking compromised UK-US trade documents before the 2019 General Election, and targeting institutions like the Institute for Statecraft.

Foreign Secretary David Cameron has unequivocally condemned these interference attempts as “completely unacceptable,” underlining the threat they pose to the UK’s democratic processes. In response, the NCSC, in collaboration with partners from the United States, Australia, Canada, and New Zealand, has issued a new cyber security advisory. This advisory aims to share technical insights on the attack methodologies of these actors and defensive strategies for potential targets.

Paul Chichester, NCSC Director of Operations, emphasized the organization’s commitment to defending democratic processes and condemned any attempts to interfere or undermine these values. He highlighted Russia’s unacceptable use of cyber operations for political interference and called for bolstered security among individuals and organizations crucial to UK democracy.

The NCSC’s updated guidance aims to improve the resilience of high-risk individuals against potential cyber threats. This includes advice on implementing two-step verification, creating strong passwords, and promptly installing updates.

This exposure of malicious cyber activity is not an isolated incident but part of a broader pattern of Russian Intelligence Services’ global cyber activities. The UK and its allies have previously exposed Russian Intelligence involvement in significant compromises, including ViaSat, SolarWinds, and attacks on critical national infrastructure.

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