Personal devices such as wifi boxes have been targeted by cyber-attackers, who probe weaknesses such as weak passwords and out-of-date software.
In an unprecedented joint alert, the UK’s National Cyber Security Centre (NCSC), the FBI and the US Department of Homeland Security (DHS) warned this morning that the Russian Government had carried out an attack targeting millions of computer routers, firewalls and other networking equipment used by infrastructure operators, government agencies and private companies.
It said: “The targets of this malicious cyber activity are primarily government and private-sector organisations, critical infrastructure providers, and the internet service providers (ISPs) supporting these sectors.
“Specifically, these cyber exploits are directed at network infrastructure devices worldwide such as routers, switches, firewalls, and the Network Intrusion Detection System (NIDS).
“Russian state-sponsored actors are using compromised routers to conduct spoofing ‘man-in-the-middle’ attacks to support espionage, extract intellectual property, maintain persistent access to victim networks, and potentially lay a foundation for future offensive operations.”
BREAKING: The UK's National Cyber Security Centre and the FBI issue unprecedented joint "technical alert" warning that the Russian government has launched a cyber attack on critical national infrastructure, private-sector organisations and internet service providers.
— Christian May (@ChristianJMay) April 16, 2018
Ciaran Martin, CEO of the National Cyber Security Centre, said: “Russia is our most capable hostile adversary in cyberspace so tackling them is a major priority for the National Cyber Security Centre and our US allies.
“This is the first time that in attributing a cyber attack to Russia the U.S. and the UK have, at the same time, issued joint advice to industry about how to manage the risks from the attack. It marks an important step in our fight back against state-sponsored aggression in cyberspace.”
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He said: “For over twenty years, GCHQ has been tracking the key Russian cyber attack groups and today’s joint UK-U.S. alert shows that the threat has not gone away. The UK government will continue to work with the U.S., other international allies and industry partners to expose Russia’s unacceptable cyber behaviour, so they are held accountable for their actions.
“Many of the techniques used by Russia exploit basic weaknesses in network systems. The NCSC is leading the way globally to automate defences at scale to take away some of those basic attacks, thereby allowing us to focus on the most potent threats.”
Cyber attack – Russia has carried out a widespread cyber attack on infrastructure, a joint warning said (Pictures: AP)
FBI Deputy Assistant Director Howard Marshall said: “The activity highlighted today is part of a repeated pattern of disruptive and harmful malicious cyber action carried out by the Russian government.
“As long as this type of activity continues, the FBI will be there to investigate, identify and unmask the perpetrators, in this case, the Russian government.
“The joint Technical Alert released today underscores our commitment to working with our partners, both at home and abroad, to combat malicious cyber activity and hold those responsible accountable. We do not make this attribution lightly and will hold steadfast with our partners.”
The warning comes as state-run media in Syria said its air defences have confronted a new “aggression”, shooting down missiles over the central region of Homs.
The reports did not say who carried out the pre-dawn strikes but government-run Syrian Central Media said the missiles targeted the Shayrat air base.
The reports follows air strikes by the US, Britain and France targeting alleged chemical weapons facilities in retaliation for a suspected chemical weapons attack blamed on the Syrian government.
Experts from international chemical weapons watchdog the Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW) are waiting to visit the site of the suspected chemical attack in the town of Douma, just east of Damascus.
On Monday, Syrian and Russian authorities prevented investigators from going to the scene, the head of the OPCW said.
The US and France say they have evidence poison gas was used in the April 7 attack, killing at least 40 people, and Syrian President Bashar Assad’s military was behind it.
But Syria and Russia deny the allegations, with Russian officials accusing Britain of staging a “fake” chemical attack.
MPs will stage a second emergency debate in the space of 24 hours over Britain’s role in the missile strikes following a marathon three-hour Commons statement by Theresa May on Monday which was then followed by another three-hour debate on a backbench motion.
The Prime Minister defended her decision not to recall Parliament for a vote on the strikes, saying speed had been “essential”, and the “security” of the operation could have been compromised by a recall of MPs.