UK defence chief Gavin Williamson blames Russian military for 2017 NotPetya cyberattack

He warned of a ‘new era of warfare’ and urged Moscow to take responsibility

PUBLISHED : Thursday, 15 February, 2018, 6:57pm
UPDATED : Thursday, 15 February, 2018, 6:57pm

Britain’s defence minister has accused the Russian government of “undermining democracy” with a cyberattack that targeted Ukraine and spread across Europe last year.

The UK government took the unusual step of publicly accusing Moscow of the NotPetya ransomware attack in June, which primarily targeted the Ukrainian financial, energy and government sectors.

Ukraine has been in conflict with Kremlin-backed separatists since Russia annexed Crimea in 2014.

The attack was designed to spread further and affected European and Russian companies.

The defence secretary, Gavin Williamson, said: “We have entered a new era of warfare, witnessing a destructive and deadly mix of conventional military might and malicious cyberattacks.

“Russia is ripping up the rule book by undermining democracy, wrecking livelihoods by targeting critical infrastructure and weaponising information … We must be primed and ready to tackle these stark and intensifying threats.”

Russia has denied responsibility for the attack, which is estimated to have cost companies more than US$1.2 billion. It claimed Russian businesses were among those with systems affected.

The foreign minister Lord Ahmad said the UK’s decision to identify the Kremlin as responsible showed the government would not tolerate malicious cyber activity.

“The UK government judges that the Russian government, specifically the Russian military, was responsible for the destructive NotPetya cyberattack of June 2017 … The Kremlin has positioned Russia in direct opposition to the west, yet it doesn’t have to be that way.

“We call upon Russia to be the responsible member of the international community it claims to be, rather then secretly trying to undermine it … We are committed to strengthening coordinated international efforts to uphold a free, open, peaceful and secure cyberspace.”

In November, Theresa May accused Vladimir Putin of attempting to “sow discord” in the west by spreading misinformation.

MPs have asked social media companies to look into claims that Russian hackers tried to influence the outcome of the EU referendum.

YouTube and Facebook said inquiries had found no evidence of this.