Attempts by Russian-backed hackers to steal COVID-19 vaccine research from Britain are “completely unacceptable” but have not done any damage, security minister James Brokenshire said on Friday. Britain’s National Cyber Security Centre (NCSC) said on Thursday that hackers backed by the Russian state had tried to steal COVID-19 vaccine and treatment research from academic and pharmaceutical institutions around the world. Russia has rejected London’s allegations.
“It’s completely unacceptable for the Russian intelligence agencies to seek to get into the systems of those who are seeking to respond to this crisis … to develop a vaccine,” Brokenshire told Sky News.
“There’s no evidence or information of any damage or, or any sort of harm.”
Russia has denied all accusations against them by the NCSC.
Asked whether there will be “retaliation” from the UK Government against Russia, the Tory Minister said: “We will continue to keep our actions under review as the Foreign Secretary said yesterday.
Russia news: James Brokenshire says UK’s response to hack is ‘under review’
“The National Cyber Security Centre has a 95 percent plus confidence rating in relation to this.
“We are confident that Russian actors, Russian intelligence organisations were behind this.
“Therefore we keep our response under review raising our sense of vigilance and calling out actions when we see them as we have done in this case.”
Speaking to BBC Breakfast, Mr Brokenshire said a separate allegation of Russian interference with the December general election was not being attributed to the Russian state.
The Security Minister told BBC there was an “ongoing criminal investigation” into how a document relating to a planned UK-US trade deal had been obtained and leaked online.
Mr Brokenshire refused to comment on whether Britain’s democratic processes had effectively been tampered with, saying only: “Any type of intervention in this way is completely unacceptable too, in terms of our democratic processes.”
A co-ordinated statement from Britain, the United States and Canada attributed the attacks to group APT29, also known as Cozy Bear, which they said was almost certainly operating as part of Russian intelligence services.
“We condemn these despicable attacks against those doing vital work to combat the coronavirus pandemic,” said NCSC Director of Operations Paul Chichester.
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Cybersecurity researchers said an APT29 hacking tool was used against clients located in United States, Japan, China and Africa over the last year.
Russian news agency RIA cited spokesman Dmitry Peskov as saying the Kremlin rejected London’s allegations, which he said were not backed by proper evidence.
In a separate announcement Britain also accused “Russian actors” of trying to interfere in its 2019 election by trying to spread leaked documents online. Russia’s foreign ministry said those accusations were “foggy and contradictory”.
Britain is expected to publish a long-delayed report into Russian influence in British politics next week.