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US and UK Accuse Russian Intelligence of Persistent Cyber-Espionage Operations



US and UK Accuse Russian Intelligence of Persistent Cyber-Espionage Operations

The governments of the United States and the United Kingdom jointly alleged on Thursday that Russian intelligence agencies had engaged in a consistent cyber-espionage campaign targeting influential politicians, media personalities, and non-governmental organizations.

Allegations and Diplomatic Actions

While suspicions of Russia’s interference in UK politics, notably during the contentious Brexit referendum in 2016, have existed before, critics have recently condemned the Conservative government for not investigating these claims.

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The UK’s foreign ministry specifically accused Russia’s Federal Security Service (FSB) of carrying out “unsuccessful attempts to interfere in UK political processes.” This accusation prompted the summoning of Russia’s ambassador to London for discussions on the matter.

Simultaneously, the US prosecutors publicly accused two Russian individuals of hacking computer networks in the US, UK, and other NATO nations. In response, both the US and the UK have imposed sanctions on these individuals.

Strong Condemnation and Specific Allegations

UK Foreign Secretary David Cameron strongly condemned Russia’s attempts to interfere in UK politics, deeming them “completely unacceptable” and a threat to democratic processes. The UK’s office under Cameron also attributed cyber espionage operations targeting the UK to Centre 18, a unit within the FSB, holding one of the indicted men as an officer within that unit.

According to the UK government, the FSB’s targets included parliamentarians from various political parties. It is alleged that these attacks, ongoing from at least 2015 to 2023, resulted in leaked documents. Notably, the FSB purportedly hacked UK-US trade documents, leaked before the UK general election in December 2019.

Charges and Sanctions

The two Russian men charged in the United States, Ruslan Aleksandrovich Peretyatko and Andrei Stanislavovich Korinets, are currently not in US custody. Each faces charges with potential sentences of up to five and ten years, respectively. These charges relate to their involvement in spear-phishing campaigns and activities aimed at undermining the UK, as stated by the Justice Department.

Spear-phishing involves the targeted sending of malicious links to specific individuals to elicit sensitive information. The UK’s National Cyber Security Centre highlighted that attackers often conduct reconnaissance activities to make such attempts more effective.

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Ongoing Pursuit and Diplomatic Rewards

Both accused individuals are believed to be in Russia and are currently wanted by the FBI. The State Department has announced a reward of up to $10 million for any information leading to their location and subsequent arrest.

Heightened Alert and Prior Instances

In January, UK cybersecurity authorities warned of increased targeting by Russia and Iran toward government officials, journalists, and NGOs through spear-phishing attacks. They urged vigilance and offered mitigation advice, noting the targeting by groups like SEABORGIUM and TA453.

Last year, reports emerged that suspected Kremlin agents hacked former Prime Minister Liz Truss’s cellphone during her tenure as foreign minister. The breach reportedly compromised messages related to sensitive discussions, including the Ukraine conflict.

Official Warnings and Vigilance

UK Foreign Office Minister Leo Docherty highlighted the tangible threat posed by Russia’s cyber activities, emphasizing their creation of false accounts and impersonation of contacts to build trust before delivering malicious links.

The escalating accusations and actions by the US and UK underscore a growing concern over persistent cyber threats and underline the necessity for heightened vigilance in the face of such malicious activities.


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