U.S. and UK Blame Russia for Hacking Internet Routers Globally

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WPVI What's the Deal Saving money on your cable internet bill Nydia Han reports during Action News at 4:30

United Kingdom and U.S. spies issued an unprecedented joint alert over Russian-sponsored cyber attacks on Monday, confirming "millions" of devices have been infected by "hostile" hackers.

First, this type of effort has targeted millions of machines to spy on ISP customers, organizations and government agencies.

This could be used be used to mount a future offensive, it warned.

"We have high confidence that Russian Federation has carried out a coordinated campaign to gain access to enterprise, small office, home office routers known as SOHO routers and residential routers, and the switches and connectors worldwide", said Rob Joyce, special assistant to the President and cybersecurity coordinator at the White House, speaking to journalists.

No sanctions or penalties were announced Monday, and the alert is unrelated to expected sanctions on Russian Federation in coming days, though Joyce reiterated that "all elements of United States power are available to push back" on such hacking efforts.

Compromised devices were used to look at data passing through them, added Mr Joyce.

Hackers also sought to undermine the firewalls and intrusion detection system devices.

It's warned that a Russian government campaign to exploit these devices threatens safety, security, and economic well-being of the U.S. and the UK.

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It is worth saying that Britain and the U.S. will be carrying out nearly identical activities in Russia, pre-positioning in Russian networks to be able to respond.

There were reports that the Pentagon had detected a 2,000% increase in Russian-linked bots on social media in the hours after Saturday's strikes.

"We assess the goals of the campaign include espionage and intellectual property theft", he said.

The alert said the targets of the campaign were primarily "government and private-sector organizations, critical infrastructure providers, and the Internet Service Providers (ISPs) supporting these sectors".

"When we see malicious cyber-activity, whether Kremlin or other nation state actors, we are going to push back", said Mr Joyce.

The chief of Britain's National Cyber Security Centre (NCSC) based at GCHQ in Cheltenham, Glos, said Russian Federation was "our most capable hostile adversary in cyberspace" and that "dealing with their attacks is a major priority" for British and American spooks. Finally, the alert outlined what erratic hardware behavior should indicate a device has been compromised.

Mr Martin said GCHQ, NCSC's parent organisation, had tracked the threat posed by Russian cyber-gangs for more than 20 years.

The UK was working with America, its other allies and the technology industry to "expose Russia's unacceptable cyber-behaviour, so they are held accountable for their actions", said Mr Martin.

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