Russia: US, UK hacking accusations ‘groundless’

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MOSCOW — The Kremlin on Tuesday dismissed as “groundless” warnings from Britain and the United States that Russian state-sponsored hackers were threatening their crucial computer networks.

“We don’t know what these new accusations are based on,” said President Vladimir Putin’s spokesman Dmitry Peskov.

“As before, neither our American nor our British colleagues have bothered to search for arguments, even weak ones,” he said during a regular briefing.

Peskov added that the claims were “groundless” and “unjustified”.

Washington and London said in a joint statement on Monday that Russia’s hacking operation aimed “to support espionage, extract intellectual property, maintain persistent access to victim networks and potentially lay a foundation for future offensive operations”.

The US Department of Homeland Security said the hacking was part of a broad operation dubbed Grizzly Steppe, which DHS says comprises concerting cyber attacks by Moscow’s civilian and military intelligence agencies.

The announcement came in an unprecedented joint alert that underscored closer cooperation between Western governments fighting what they say is an ongoing, multi-faceted hacking and online disinformation campaign by Moscow.

The alert came from the Britain’s National Cyber Security Centre, DHS and the US Federal Bureau of Investigation.

In came after more than one year of separate warnings over the attempted hacking of key infrastructure like power and water utilities in Western countries.

The two sides did not give any examples of systems that had been broken into, but said those compromised risked losing data, identities, passwords and even control of their own systems.

The hacking effort goes to the critical components of a computer network: the routers, switches and firewalls designed to safely and accurate deliver data from one computer to another.

Taking over a router virtually would give a hacker the ability to manipulate, divert or stop any data from going through it.

In an operation like an electric power plant, the hacker could shut down the service or physically damage a plant.

A hacker could also “potentially lay a foundation for future offensive operations,” the joint alert said.

“The current state of US and UK network devices, coupled with a Russian government campaign to exploit these devices, threatens our respective safety, security, and economic well-being,” it said.

Both countries have accused Moscow of concerted efforts to use social media to interfere with public affairs, particularly with the British Brexit referendum and US presidential election in 2016. — Agencies


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