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No ‘Absolute Protection’ From Russian Cyber Attack, GCHQ Warns British Public |RN

By Edward Malnick
a screen shot of a computer           © Provided by The Telegraph  

Britain’s spy agencies cannot offer “absolute protection” against Russian cyber attacks and are instead focused on preventing assaults that would “most impact on our way of life”, in the wake of the Salisbury poisoning, GCHQ warns today.

Writing in The Sunday Telegraph, Ciaran Martin, the head of the agency’s cyber defence unit, says it is a matter of “when not if” Britain faces a “serious cyber attack”.

He added that its focus is now on building “resilience” in “the systems we care about the most”, believed to be Britain’s power and water supplies, internet and transport networks, and health service.

This newspaper understands that senior representatives of utility, transport and internet firms and the  NHS, have attended intelligence briefings at the National Cyber Security Centre (NCSC), on the specific methods – known as “attack vectors” – being used by  Russia  to target Britain’s critical national infrastructure, following the nerve agent attack in Salisbury last month.

a man wearing a suit and tie               © Provided by The Telegraph

Separately, the NCSC is understood to have written to the Government setting out urgent actions that departments and individual officials should take to protect Whitehall from cyber assaults.

These are in response to retaliatory measures against the Kremlin following the attempted assassination of Sergei Skripal and his daughter Yulia in Salisbury with a nerve agent last month.

Today, Mr Martin, the NCSC’s chief executive, publicly confirms that GCHQ is on “heightened alert” for “follow-up activity” following the Salisbury attack – an explicit link the agency fell short of making when it issued an unprecedented joint warning with the FBI last week about cyber attacks by the Russian Government.

“Turning off the lights and the power supply by a cyber attack is harder than Hollywood films sometimes make out,” he writes.

“But, we’ve seen enough malicious cyber attacks across the world, including against UK health services by a North Korean group last year, to know how services can be disrupted.

“Absolute protection is neither possible nor desirable; it’s about having more resilience in the systems we care about the most, those where loss of service would have the most impact on our way of life.

“We have said that it is a matter of when, not if, the UK faces a serious cyber attack. So last week we presented detailed plans to Government departments about the priority areas where the NCSC will work with them, industry and law enforcement to improve the cyber resilience of the most important systems.”

This newspaper understands that in addition to setting out the “priority areas” it will focus on protecting from attacks, the NCSC provided the Government with fresh advice on preventing attacks, based on the latest intelligence about attempted intrusions by Russian hackers.

The advice is believed to have ranged from highly technical measures that should be taken by particular departments, to more basic preventative steps that could be adopted by all civil servants.

Separately, the agency is understood to have called in representatives of organisations involved in the UK’s critical national infrastructure, for a series of briefings on ongoing activity in recent days, with the sessions including information on the warning signs to look out for, and advice on how to guard against the threats.  (The Telegraph)

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UK Braced Up For Cyber Attack As Retaliation From Russia Over Attack On Syria |RN

Amanda Cashmore
 

Britain was braced for a Russian cyber attack last night as officials warned of swift retaliation for the military strikes on Syria.

Intelligence officers at GCHQ and the Ministry of Defence are on standby to hit back if the Kremlin wages cyber warfare.

Vladimir Putin wearing a suit and tie: Vladimir Putin condemned the strikes as an ‘act of aggression against a sovereign state’ and accused the US and its allies of violating the ‘norms and principles of international law’© Provided by Associated Newspapers Limited Vladimir Putin condemned the strikes as an ‘act of aggression against a sovereign state’ and accused the US and its allies of violating the ‘norms and…

Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson acknowledged the threat yesterday, saying the UK had to take ‘every possible precaution’.

It is feared vital transport systems, water supplies, gas networks, banks, hospitals and even air traffic control could be hacked by Russia in response to the assault on Bashar al-Assad’s chemical weapons facilities.

Boris Johnson wearing a suit and tie: Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson acknowledged the threat yesterday, saying the UK had to take ‘every possible precaution’© Provided by Associated Newspapers Limited Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson acknowledged the threat yesterday, saying the UK had to take ‘every possible precaution’

Intelligence sources also fear the retaliation could involve the online release of so-called ‘kompromat’ – compromising information on MPs or other public figures.

 

The Syria crisis will dominate the return of Parliament today, with Mrs May facing the prospect of MPs voting against her decision to join Friday night’s US-led strikes to punish the Assad regime for the use of chemical weapons in Douma.

In a robust defence of her actions, the Prime Minister will deliver a statement to MPs insisting that Britain had to strike Syria ‘in our national interest’.

This image shows areas targeted in Syria by the U.S.-led coalition in response to Syria's use of chemical weapons© Getty This image shows areas targeted in Syria by the U.S.-led coalition in response to Syria’s use of chemical weapons

And she will invoke the Salisbury poisonings, saying that military action was essential to help deter any future use of chemical weapons ‘on the streets of the UK’.

On Saturday, Russia warned of ‘consequences’ after the air strikes.

Moscow has already launched repeated online assaults against the UK and intelligence chiefs fear they have the capability to hack into certain critical systems. Speaking on the BBC’s Andrew Marr show, Mr Johnson said: ‘I think we have to take every possible precaution.

a close up of a truck: Britain was braced for a Russian cyber attack last night as officials warned of swift retaliation for the military strikes on Syria© Provided by Associated Newspapers Limited Britain was braced for a Russian cyber attack last night as officials warned of swift retaliation for the military strikes on Syria

‘When you look at what Russia has done, not just in this country, in Salisbury, attacks on TV stations, on the democratic processes, on critical national infrastructure – of course, we have to be very, very cautious indeed.’ A National Cyber Security Centre spokesman added: ‘We are always vigilant to attacks wherever they come from and we have a full spectrum of capabilities to draw on if required.’

Intelligence experts accept that the most likely response from Russia will be through covert cyber warfare. This would be on top of an avalanche of fake news planted by Moscow-run online trolls.

Last week, Ciaran Martin, director of the cybersecurity centre, warned that Russia had already repeatedly ‘hit’ the UK’s critical infrastructure. This includes vital systems such as water supplies, electricity and gas networks, hospitals, banks and transport.

Theresa May posing for the camera: In a robust defence of her actions, the Prime Minister will deliver a statement to MPs insisting that Britain had to strike Syria ‘in our national interest’© Provided by Associated Newspapers Limited In a robust defence of her actions, the Prime Minister will deliver a statement to MPs insisting that Britain had to strike Syria ‘in our national interest’

He said Kremlin attacks on computer networks were ‘part of a wider campaign to destabilise’ the UK.

‘Our critical infrastructure gets hit frequently by Russia and it is not always clear for what purpose,’ he said.

‘As a government as a whole we want to counter hostile Russian intent towards the democratic system and we have got all sorts of different parts of government working on that.’

Whitehall sources said yesterday Russia was carrying out cyber attacks against the UK ‘all the time’. One added: ‘What is clear, both offensive and defensive cyber capabilities are now a reality.’

a man wearing a suit and tie: In the hours after the strikes, Moscow’s ambassador to the US, Anatoly Antonov, said: ‘The worst apprehensions have come true. Our warnings have been left unheard. A pre-designed scenario is being implemented. Again, we are being threatened. We warned that such actions will not be left without consequences'© Provided by Associated Newspapers Limited In the hours after the strikes, Moscow’s ambassador to the US, Anatoly Antonov, said: ‘The worst apprehensions have come true. Our warnings have been left…

And one security source told The Sunday Times: ‘We know what’s in the Russian playbook – kompromat-type material – we’re all prepared for that.’

In the hours after the strikes, Moscow’s ambassador to the US, Anatoly Antonov, said: ‘The worst apprehensions have come true. Our warnings have been left unheard. A pre-designed scenario is being implemented. Again, we are being threatened. We warned that such actions will not be left without consequences.

‘All responsibility for them rests with Washington, London and Paris. Insulting the president of Russia is unacceptable and inadmissible.’ Putin condemned the strikes as an ‘act of aggression against a sovereign state’ and accused the US and its allies of violating the ‘norms and principles of international law’. Putin even accused America of having ‘staged a chemical attack against civilians’ as a ‘pretext’ for the attack.

Evacuations continue in Syria's Eastern Ghouta         © Getty Evacuations continue in Syria’s Eastern Ghouta

One Russian politician even compared Mr Trump to Adolf Hitler. Alexander Sherin said he ‘can be called Adolf Hitler No 2 of our time – because you see, he even chose the same time [of night] that Hitler chose to attack the Soviet Union’.

A Russian resolution at the UN Security Council condemning the air strikes was soundly defeated on Saturday night. Moscow gained support from only two countries, China and Bolivia. Four council members – Ethiopia, Kazakhstan, Peru and Equatorial Guinea – abstained, while the remaining eight members voted against.

At the same time, Mrs May has faced considerable criticism for not recalling Parliament to gain approval for joining the US-led action.

Tory MPs returning from recess this week have been told they have to be in the Commons today and tomorrow in case there is a vote on her handling of the Syria crisis.

Last night, however, Downing Street officials said they believed a Commons vote was unlikely to take place – although they did not rule out the possibility that Opposition parties could force one later in the week.

Mrs May will tell MPs: ‘Let me be absolutely clear. We have acted because it is in our national interest to do so.’   (The Daily Mail)

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