Russia is behind cyber-attacks on UK industries, says NCSC chief

With the UK government becoming more and more vocal about the threats posed by Russia-backed hacking groups, the NCSC's chief executive has added fuel to the fire by pointedly accusing Russia of targeting the UK's energy, media and telecommunication industries.

The NCSC's chief executive told The Times that by attacking the UK's industries, Russia is seeking to undermine the international system.

Earlier this year, following a destructive cyber-attack on the parliament's digital infrastructure that compromised around 90 email accounts of MPs, including those of Prime Minister Theresa May as well as several of her cabinet colleagues, security agencies were forced to concede that the attack was sponsored by Russia.

In the days that followed, such accusations turned into a crescendo with a number security experts and government officials warning about the increasing threat Russian hackers posed to Britain's industries. Even the Prime Minister herself joined the party when she said that Russia had 'mounted a sustained campaign of 'cyber-espionage and disruption' against the UK.

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Ciaran Martin, chief executive of the National Cyber Security Centre, became the latest senior official to comment on the subject when he said that the Russian government is regularly targeting the UK's energy, media and telecommunication industries to vitiate the international order.

Speaking at an event organised by The Times, Martin said that continuous cyber-attacks sponsored by Russia were eroding the international order. 'The prime minister made the point on Monday night - international order as we know it is in danger of being eroded. This is clearly a cause for concern and the NCSC is actively engaging with international partners, industry and civil society to tackle this threat,' he said.

Martin's comments were not taken lightly by the Russian Embassy who disputed the NCSC's findings.

'We would be interested in finding out the details and seeing the original findings on which the statements are based. It would be most unfortunate to see [Britain] informed by wrong intelligence,' embassy officials said.

This isn't the first time that Ciaran Martin has pointed fingers at Russia for being behind a spate of cyber-attacks plaguing Britain's industries, its media as well as political organisations. Back in March, he wrote to MPs to make them aware of the threat Russian hackers posed to political parties and the electoral process.

'You will be aware of the coverage of events in the United States, Germany and elsewhere reminding us of the potential for hostile action against the UK political system.

'This is not just about the network security of political parties’ own systems. Attacks against our democratic processes go beyond this and can include attacks on parliament, constituency offices, think tanks and pressure groups and individuals’ email accounts,' he wrote.

Around the same time, Foreign secretary Boris Johnson also said that while there was no evidence that Russian hackers were attacking the UK’s democratic processes, there was evidence that they were capable of it and were up to “all sorts of dirty tricks”.