State actors and “Wagner-style” hackers are doing “dirty work” to disrupt the country’s political processes, one minister has warned.
The UK has accused Russia of using cyber attacks to disrupt the country’s democracy.
In a press release sent out on Thursday, it said the Federal Security Service (FSB), successor to the KGB, was behind “sustained” attempts to interfere in UK political processes.
The Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office claimed politicians, civil servants, journalists, NGOs and other civil society organisations had been targeted in cyber operations by Russian intelligence services and linked groups.
It said Russia’s goal was to “undermine trust in politics” by selectively leaking and amplifying the release of information.
The Foreign Office claimed attacks had been largely unsuccessful, though recognised some had led to “documents being leaked”.
The head of the UK’s National Cyber Security Centre (NCSC) Lindy Cameron has previously warned the UK is not doing enough to protect itself from cyber threats.
In response to the interference, the Foreign Office said it had sanctioned individuals involved in this illicit activity and summoned the Russian Ambassador.
“As I warned earlier this year, state actors, and the ‘Wagner-style’ sub-state hackers they use to do their dirty work, will continue to target our public institutions and our democratic processes,” said Deputy Prime Minister Oliver Dowden.
“We will continue to call this activity out, to raise our defences, and to take action against the perpetrators.
“Online is the new frontline. We are taking a whole-of-society approach to ensuring we have the robust systems and cutting-edge skills needed to resist these attempts to undermine our democracy.”
The Foreign Office detailed that MPs from multiple political parties had been targeted with “spear-pishing”, a form of attack that tries to steal sensitive information or infect a device through email.
UK-US trade documents were leaked ahead of the 2019 General Election, which British officials attributed to Russia in 2020, while numerous other individuals and organisations that “play a key role in UK democracy” had also been targeted, it added.
The Foreign Office identified Centre 18, a unit within Russia’s intelligence services, and the group Star Blizzard, as being behind a range of cyber operations in the UK.
It announced sanctions on Ruslan Aleksandrovich, who is a Russian FSB intelligence officer and a member of Star Blizzard, which is known as the Callisto Group
Andrey Stanislavovich of Star Blizzard was also sanctioned.
Ministers recently claimed Russia-aligned hackers are seeking to “disrupt or destroy” Britain’s critical infrastructure.
Relations between Russia and the West have hit rock bottom since Moscow invaded Ukraine in February 2022. The UK has been Kyiv’s principal ally in Europe, sanctioning Russia and providing military and technical support to Ukraine.