The British government has accused Russia’s intelligence service of carrying out a yearslong cyberattack campaign against high-profile politicians, public service staff members, journalists and others. According to the U.K., the attacks were “unsuccessful attempts to interfere in U.K. political processes” and could be related to Britain’s last general election in 2019. The Foreign Office said the group “almost certainly” linked to the Russian intelligence service engaged in sustained cyberespionage operations, including spear-phishing attacks targeted at lawmakers. The group also leaked information in line with Russian confrontation goals, including to undermine trust in politics in the U.K. and like-minded states. The government also warned that while Russia’s attempts to undermine democracy have been unsuccessful, they are likely to continue.
The British statement linked a 2018 hack of the Institute for Statecraft and a 2021 hack of a founder of that organization to the same group, known as Star Blizzard. The group has a history of conducting “hack and leak” campaigns, in which stolen information is then leaked publicly to influence public opinion in a targeted country. Before starting an attack, the group conducts reconnaissance of the people it is targeting. The hacks fit a pattern of Russian behavior stretching back more than a decade, with Russia-aligned groups accused of infiltrating government agencies, multinational corporations and other organizations across the United States and Europe. Russia has denied past accusations of hacking.
Russia’s attempts to interfere in U.K. politics were deemed “completely unacceptable” by Britain’s recently appointed foreign secretary, David Cameron. As a response, the British government announced sanctions against two people linked to Star Blizzard and issued a new cybersecurity advisory. The National Cyber Security Center said that cybersecurity measures should be bolstered by individuals and organizations who play an important role in democracy.