UK warns of further sanctions against Russia as Nato weighs in on fresh hacking allegations

Emily Nicolle
Follow Emily
Peter Wilson gave the address on behalf of Alan Duncan this morning (Source: Getty)

The UK has said it will revise sanctions against Russia in light of today's cyber hacking allegations, working alongside other institutions as Nato joined the chorus of voices against Russian military intelligence (GRU).

The statement, made by the UK's Dutch ambassador Peter Wilson on behalf of Europe minister Alan Duncan, said: "We will increase further our understanding of what the GRU is doing, and attempting to do, in our countries."

"Through our institutions, including the EU, we will work with allies to update sanctions regimes to deter and respond to the use of chemical weapons, we will combat hostile activity in cyberspace, and we will punish human rights abuse."

Wilson said Russian intelligence agents had attempted to access computer systems within the UK Foreign Office immediately after the Salisbury attack in March, in which two Russian agents attempted to murder a former spy residing in the UK.

One month later, the GRU targeted computers inside the UK defence department's laboratory as well as inside the UN's Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW), which at the time were carrying out analyses of the chemical weapons used in the Salisbury attack.

It was at this time Dutch authorities apprehended at least four GRU agents in the process of an attack on the OPCW, who have since been expelled from Dutch soil. Further attempts to infiltrate the OPCW were also made by GRU agents in May.

Read more: UK and Dutch agencies put Russia behind five cyber attacks

A timeline of today's Russian cyber attacks

  • 2015: GRU agents stole the email accounts and content from a small UK TV station
  • 2016: The GRU led an attack on the US Democratic National Committee
  • August 2017: A GRU attack uncovered confidential medical files from the World Anti-Doping Agency
  • October 2017: Bad Rabbit ransomware used by the GRU to disrupt Ukrainian and Russian infrastructure
  • March 2018: A GRU attempt to hack into UK Foreign Office computer systems, in the immediate aftermath of the Salisbury attacks
  • April 2018: The GRU led targeted attacks on the UK defence laboratory and the OPCW. Additional agents caught by Dutch authorities
  • May 2018: GRU agents posed as Swiss federal agents to target the OPCW

Nato secretary-general Jens Stoltenberg later echoed the statements, to add: "Russia must stop its reckless pattern of behaviour, including the use of force against its neighbours, attempted interference in election processes, and widespread disinformation campaigns."

"Nato will continue to strengthen its defence and deterrence to deal with hybrid threats, including in the cyber domain."

The comments come after Prime Minister Theresa May, in tandem with Dutch Prime Minister Mark Rutte, today said UK and Dutch authorities had identified a number of other cyber attacks which came from a network of hackers employed by the GRU.

These included a 2015 theft of email accounts and content from a UK TV station, the 2016 hack on the US Democratic National Committee, and the Bad Rabbit and World Anti-Doping Agency attacks in 2017.