The U.K. on Thursday accused Russian military intelligence agency GRU of staging “indiscriminate and reckless” cyberattacks on the Western countries.
“Today, the UK and its allies can expose a campaign by the GRU, the Russian military intelligence service, of indiscriminate and reckless cyber attacks targeting political institutions, businesses, media and sport,” a statement from the Foreign Office said.
It said Britain’s National Cyber Security Centre (NCSC) has identified that the “attacks have been conducted in flagrant violation of international law, have affected citizens in a large number of countries, including Russia, and have cost national economies millions of pounds.”
British Foreign Secretary Jeremy Hunt said the cyberattacks “serve no legitimate national security interest, instead impacting the ability of people around the world to go about their daily lives free from interference, and even their ability to enjoy sport.”
Hunt said: “They try to undermine and interfere in elections in other countries; they are even prepared to damage Russian companies and Russian citizens.”
“Our message is clear: together with our allies, we will expose and respond to the GRU’s attempts to undermine international stability,” he added.
The British Foreign Office also said the GRU is associated with hacking groups such as Fancy Bear, Voodoo Bear, APT28, Sofacy, Pawnstorm, Sednit, CyberCaliphate, Cyber Berku, BlackEnergy Actors, STRONTIUM, Tsar Team and Sandworm.
The U.K. said it identified four cyber-attacks by Russian hackers, including a 2017 ransomware attack known as BadRabbit, hacking of confidential medical files from the World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA) and the 2016 hacking of the U.S. Democratic National Committee.
The GRU was a little known intelligence agency of the Russian army until a nerve-agent attack in Salisbury in March, which the U.K. says Kremlin ordered.
British prosecutors last month had revealed that Alexander Petrov and Ruslan Boshirov, who are wanted for conspiracy to murder Sergei Skripal and the attempted murder of Yulia Skripal and police officer Nick Bailey in Salisbury nerve agent attack, were former GRU officers.
The cyberattack claims by the U.K. came a day after Russian President Vladimir Putin labelled poisoned former Russian spy Sergei Skripal a “traitor” and a “scumbag” in a speech.
Sergei Skripal, 66, and his daughter were admitted to a hospital after being found unconscious on March 4 in Salisbury. They were both since discharged from the Salisbury District Hospital.
In another incident, British authorities say involved the same nerve-agent in Amesbury, a woman died and a man fell seriously ill.
Dawn Sturgess, 44, fell ill on June 30 after handling an item contaminated with the nerve agent and was taken to hospital and her partner, Charlie Rowley, 45, was also exposed to the nerve agent and taken to hospital in a critical condition.
The Metropolitan Police continue a murder investigation into the death of Sturgess.