Australians caught up in worldwide cyber attacks blamed on Russia

Cyber security has become a focal point of the strained relations between Britain and Russia

Cyber security has become a focal point of the strained relations between Britain and Russia

The United States and Britain on Monday accused Russian Federation of launching cyber attacks on computer routers, firewalls and other networking equipment used by government agencies, businesses and critical infrastructure operators around the globe.

Joyce was joined in the call by representatives from the Federal Bureau of Investigation, the US Department of Homeland Security and the UK's National Cyber Security Centre (NCSC), which is part of the surveillance agency GCHQ.

Since 2015, the U.S. government has been receiving information from multiple sources - including private and public sector cyber security research organisations and allies - that cyber actors were exploiting large numbers of enterprise-class and residential routers and switches worldwide.

The two nations allege routers in government buildings as well as small offices could have fallen victim, while critical infrastructure and internet service providers could have also been compromised.

"It's a tremendous weapon in the hand of an adversary", said Howard Marshall, FBI's deputy assistant director for cybersecurity.

"Once you own the router, you own the traffic", Jeanette Manfra, assistant secretary at the Department of Homeland Security, told reporters on a joint conference call. "We condemn this latest activity in the strongest possible terms".

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It also recently announced that Russia had targeted the United States energy grid with computer malware, and it slapped fresh sanctions on Russian hackers for illicit cyber activity.

Analysts have speculated Russian Federation may use cyber attacks to retaliate over recent Western airstrikes on Moscow's ally Syria.

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 USA allies".

Rob Joyce of the National Security Council in the United States adds: "The actions you're seeing today is one in a series of steps against this unacceptable activity. 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". The joint alert said the cyber campaign was meant to advance spying, intellectual property theft and other "malicious" activities and could be escalated to launch offensive attacks.

Anyone who finds signs of the malicious activity described in the joint alert is encouraged to report them to the DHS National Cybersecurity and Communications Integration Center, FBI or NCSC.

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