Russian hackers have attacked targets from the British energy industry over the last 12 months, the head of the country’s National Cyber Security Center, Ciaran Martin said. The warning, according to the New York Times, suggests that the number of attacks coming from Russia has been much greater than previously estimated by British and U.S. officials.
Martin did not specify the names of any potential targets, which, he said, also included businesses from the media and telecoms industries. He also didn’t specify the number of attacks identified by his agency.
Earlier this year, U.S. security agencies reported that they had detected network breaches by Russian hackers into companies operating nuclear power facilities in the United States. The combination of nuclear power and cyberattacks is enough to raise any government’s hackles, and Britain’s PM Theresa May wasted no time in accusing Moscow directly, saying “We know what you are doing. And you will not succeed,” adding that Russia was “threatening the international order on which we all depend.”
Intelligence data has earlier suggested that last year Russian hackers tried to enter the Irish power grid and that they also targeted power utilities in Great Britain.
The cyberthreat for the energy industry is not solely a Russian one. At the end of last year, the UN’s Deputy Secretary-General, Jan Ellison, warned that “non-state” groups were trying to get their hands-on weapons of mass destruction, and it seems that hacking nuclear power plants is one of the ways to achieve this destruction. Ellison said a hack attack on a nuclear plant would be “a nightmare scenario,” adding that the fight with these groups is a long-term challenge.
Britain earlier this year suffered another wide-scale attack; this one traced back to North Korea, reportedly, which disabled the IT systems of several hospitals, rescheduled operations, and diverted ambulances. The so-called WannaCry attack was stopped by an amateur.