HomeBussinessPutin is plotting ‘physical attacks’ on the West, says GCHQ chief

Putin is plotting ‘physical attacks’ on the West, says GCHQ chief


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Russia has long been accused of protecting cyber gangs that target Western organisations, allowing them to operate with relative impunity as they carry out sophisticated hacks.

Last week, the National Crime Agency named Dmitry Khoroshev, a Russian national, as the person behind LockBit – a ransomware group that had stolen hundreds of millions of pounds from businesses.

Royal Mail fell victim to a LockBit attack last year, after the Russia-based gang paralysed the postal service’s ability to send letters and parcels abroad.

Prior to that, LockBit also targeted London-listed car dealership Pendragon, scrambling computers across its 200 sites and demanding a £60m ransom to unlock them.

Directing physical attacks in the West would represent an escalation of Moscow’s hostility towards the West.

Despite the growing threat from Russia, Ms Keast-Butler said China was taking up “more resource… than any other single mission” at GCHQ.

Ms Keast-Butler said China posed the greatest threat to Britain, representing a “genuine and increasing cyber risk to the UK”.

While she said the UK was open to engaging with China on areas that are “mutually beneficial”, such as climate change or artificial intelligence safety, Ms Keast-Butler added that the “PRC [People’s Republic of China] poses a significant risk to international norms and values”.

She said China was seeking to shape global technology standards “in its own favour” and wanted to “assert its dominance within the next 10 to 15 years”.

The warning over China comes days after it emerged a Ministry of Defence contractor was hacked in an attack blamed on Beijing. Payroll data on 270,000 current and former military personnel was compromised in the breach.

The US government has also accused China of extensive efforts to infiltrate its critical infrastructure via a hacking group dubbed Volt Typhoon.

American officials believe the group has sought to penetrate water facilities, the power grid and transportation systems, lying dormant with tools that can be unleashed in the event of a conflict.

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