Russian hackers start targeting critical United Kingdom national infrastructure

Russian hackers have been targeting millions of routers around the world.                  Aaron Robinson  CNET

Australia joined a coordinated announcement sheeting the blame home to Russian state-sponsored actors.

The attacks targeted Cisco routers with "Smart Install" and potentially affected government departments, companies and infrastructure facilities running Cisco equipment.

The warning is unrelated to the administration's recent military strikes on suspected chemical weapons facilities in Syria, action Russian Federation condemned. "The U.S. Government assesses that cyber actors supported by the Russian government carried out this worldwide campaign". It also recently announced that Russia had targeted the U.S. energy grid with computer malware, and it slapped fresh sanctions on Russian hackers for illicit cyber activity.

State-sponsored Russian hackers are actively seeking to hijack essential internet hardware, U.S. and United Kingdom intelligence agencies say.

Australian government claims "no indication" sensitive data was captured.

"Commercially available routers were used as a point of entry, demonstrating that every connected device is vulnerable to malicious activity". Lastly, the alert outlined what erratic hardware behavior should indicate if a device has been already compromised.

The unusual public warning came on Tuesday morning (NZ time) from the White House, US agencies and Britain's National Cyber Security Centre, following a years-long effort to monitor the threat.


"Access to the device may facilitate malicious cyber adversaries gaining access to the information that flows through the device", the agency warned.

On Monday, the US Department of Homeland Security, the Federal Bureau of Investigation and the UK's National Cyber Security Center jointly issued a technical alert. It had also let attackers cripple firewalls and intrusion detection systems that organizations use to flag malicious internet traffic, according to the BBC.

The technical alert said the United States government had been receiving information that the cyber actors had been exploiting switches - named by the ACSC as "switches with Cisco Smart Install accessible from the internet, and routers or switches with Simple Network Management Protocol (SNMP) enabled and exposed to the internet" - since 2015. Any compromised hardware might even be used as a foundation for future attacks, the alert theorized.

"We have high confidence that Russian Federation has carried out a coordinated campaign to compromise. routers, residential and business - the things you and I have in our home", said Rob Joyce, the White House cybersecurity coordinator. No sanctions or penalties were announced Monday, and the alert is unrelated to expected sanctions on Russian Federation in coming days, though Joyce reiterated that "all elements of U.S. power are available to push back" on such hacking efforts.

But they portrayed this as far more serious because of the potential to undermine infrastructure.

"They could be pre-positioning for use in times of tension", Ciaran Martin, head of the British government's National Cyber Security Center said, adding that "millions of machines" used to move traffic across the net were targeted.

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