The U.S., Britain and Australia have accused the Russian government of maliciously targeting global internet equipment for political and economic espionage, stealing intellectual property and laying the foundation for an attack on infrastructure.
Senior security officials in the US and UK held a rare joint conference call and issued a joint alert, saying the widespread, global campaign began in 2015 which allegedly involve planting malware on internet routers and other equipment, and it could be escalated to launch offensive attacks. Security officials directly blamed Russian government-backed hackers for the campaign on government agencies, businesses and critical infrastructure operators, as the US warned Moscow it is ‘pushing back hard’.
“When we see malicious cyber activity, whether it be from the Kremlin or other malicious nation-state actors, we are going to push back,” said Rob Joyce, the White House cybersecurity coordinator.
The U.S. Department of Homeland Security, the FBI and the U.K.’s National Cyber Security Centre said the main targets include “government and private-sector organizations,” as well as providers of “critical infrastructure” and internet service providers.
The decision of the US and UK governments to go public reflects a loss of patience with Moscow after a series of cyber-attacks and hacks allegedly originating from within Russia.
The alert comes two months after the United States and Britain accused Russia of carrying out the damaging “NotPetya” cyber attack in 2017 that unleashed a virus that crippled parts of Ukraine’s infrastructure and damaged computers across the globe.
Australia also admonished Russia and accused Kremlin-backed hackers of cyber attacks on hundreds of Australian companies last year.
Officials did not identify any victims or provide details on the impact of the attacks.
“Victims were identified through a coordinated series of actions between U.S. and international partners,” according to a companion technical alert issued by the U.S. Computer Emergency Response Team (US-CERT). Both nations have “high confidence” in the finding of Russian-sponsored cyber-meddling, which the alert said has been reported by multiple sources since 2015.