The head of MI5 has claimed that Russian has become an “increasingly aggressive” cyber-threat to the UK as it seeks to follow foreign policy objectives online.
Andrew Parker told the Guardian that the Kremlin is using “the whole range of state organs and powers” to achieve its aims, via propaganda, espionage, subversion and cyber-attacks.
It has systematically built up its resources in this area, with online operatives complementing boots on the ground in the form of spies on the streets of the UK.
“Russia increasingly seems to define itself by opposition to the West and seems to act accordingly,” said Parker. “You can see that on the ground with Russia’s activities in Ukraine and Syria. But there is high-volume activity out of sight with the cyber-threat. Russia has been a covert threat for decades. What’s different these days is that there are more and more methods available.”
Its state-sponsored hackers are targeting military secrets, industrial projects, economic information and government and foreign policy, the report claimed.
The news will not come as a surprise to anyone in the cybersecurity industry, with groups like Fancy Bear (Sofacy, APT28) pegged for long-running espionage campaigns.
In fact, the Kremlin was recently outed by the US government for an attack on the Democratic National Committee (DNC) which led to the mass leaking of private emails.
It’s also suspected of trying to infiltrate state-level voting systems ahead of next week’s presidential election.
Parker, whose interview was the first given by a sitting MI5 chief in the service’s 107-year history, also rejected criticism of the controversial Investigatory Powers Bill.
Critics claim the so-called ‘Snoopers’ Charter’ will enshrine mass surveillance into law and actively undermine security in various provisions such as forcing ISPs to retain the web browsing records of everyone in the UK.