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Published: Fri, April 20, 2018
Global Media | By Abel Hampton

US, Britain warn of Russian cyberattacks in rare joint alert

US, Britain warn of Russian cyberattacks in rare joint alert

The alert states that, "Russian cyber actors leverage a number of legacy or weak protocols associated with network administration activities".

The UK's National Cyber Security Center said Monday that the threat of a cyber-attack against Britain is now "at its highest possible level".

United States and UK officials said in their conference call they had high confidence that Russian Federation was to blame.

The Russian government-sponsored actors are using the compromised devices to perform man-in-the-middle attacks that extract passwords, intellectual property, and other sensitive information and to lay the groundwork for potential intrusions in the future, the officials continued. Rather, it is part of a broader ongoing effort by the USA government to call out bad behaviour in cyberspace and impose costs as a deterrent. The warning, which has also issued almost simultaneously by UK's Government Communications Headquarters (GCHQ), states that Russian cyber agents are at the cusp of breaking into millions of devices used in UK.

According to the Monday statement, Russian government hackers targeted networking equipment such as routers, switches and firewalls, as well as the systems that are meant to detect intrusion into networks.

Device owners often fail to change default settings, perform security hardening, or commit to regular patching.

"We don't have full insight into the scope of the compromise", said U.S. Department of Homeland Security cybersecurity official Jeanette Manfra. Russian state-sponsored hackers are using the attacks to conduct espionage and to steal intellectual property, the countries said.

The Kremlin said on Tuesday it did not understand the basis for British and US allegations that Russian Federation was conducting a global cyber espionage campaign.

While it the extent of the attack remains unclear, Ciaran Martin, head of the UK's NCSC, noted that numerous machines targeted had been "seized by hackers", adding that hacks were being tracked by British intelligence from a year ago.

But officials say the latest attacks affected a series of organisations - including internet service providers, private sector-firms and crucial infrastructure providers.

"Since 2015, the USA government received information from multiple sources-including private- and public-sector cybersecurity research organizations and allies-that cyber actors are exploiting large numbers of enterprise-class and SOHO/residential routers and switches worldwide", Monday's technical alert stated. The UK government will continue to work with the USA, other global allies and industry partners to expose Russia's unacceptable cyber behaviour, so they are held accountable for their actions.

The joint US-UK alert comes days after Home Secretary Amber Rudd warned that the UK had been hit by 49 cyberattacks from Russian groups in the last six months.

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