Russian state hackers have been condemned by Britain for their extensive cyber attack on Members of Parliament, which aimed to disrupt the democratic process. The attack, which has been ongoing since at least 2015, involved stealing sensitive documents and leaking them to the public. The hackers, known as Star Blizzard, were identified as being "almost certainly subordinate" to the Russian FSB spy service. Their actions were revealed when former Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn unwittingly used stolen government documents to claim that the NHS was "up for sale."
Russian Hackers Target MPs and Cabinet Ministers
The cyber attack targeted a range of individuals, including MPs, Cabinet ministers, and former spy chiefs. Hackers gained access to a Cabinet minister's email account and leaked sensitive trade papers just before the 2019 General Election. Jeremy Corbyn used these documents to argue that the Conservative Party planned to negotiate the NHS's inclusion in trade talks with the US. Other victims of the attack include former MI6 spy chief Sir Richard Dearlove and SNP MP Stewart McDonald. Sir Richard's leaked emails revealed his support for a hard Brexit.
Putin's Hackers Operated Since 2015
The National Cyber Security Centre (NCSC) has attributed the cyber attacks to the FSB spy service, controlled by Russian President Vladimir Putin. The NCSC identified the hackers as Star Blizzard, who are believed to be under the command of the FSB. The attacks have been ongoing since at least 2015 and aimed to undermine trust in politics by leaking sensitive information and amplifying it online. The NCSC warned that hackers often use social media posts to engineer spear-phishing attacks, posing as trusted contacts to gain access to accounts and data.
International Allies Issue Joint Warnings
The UK's "Five Eyes" allies, including Australia, Canada, New Zealand, and the United States, have jointly issued warnings about Russian cyber attacks. These revelations are part of a broader pattern of Russian meddling, which includes cyber attacks and assassinations. The Fancy Bear hackers, controlled by Russian military intelligence (GRU), stole emails from Hillary Clinton's US presidential campaign in 2016. Another group, known as Cozy Bear and operated by Putin's foreign intelligence service (SVR), attempted to steal Covid vaccines from the UK, US, and Canada in 2020.
Russian Meddling: From Assassinations to Cyber Attacks
Russian state actors have been involved in various acts of aggression, including cyber attacks and assassinations. The GRU carried out the Novichok nerve agent attack against Sergei and Julia Skripal in Salisbury in 2018. The Skripals survived, but an innocent woman, Dawn Sturgess, died after being exposed to the poison. Putin's agents were also responsible for the 2006 poisoning of defector Alexander Litvinenko in London. In 2019, an alleged FSB agent, Vadim Krasikov, murdered an exiled Chechen leader in a Berlin park. Five Bulgarians were arrested in the UK this year on charges of spying for Russia.