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The lights are going out all over Europe

Joss Meakins
RUSI Defence Systems, 27 April 2018
Cyber, Future UK Cyber Security Strategy Project, Russia
The threat of significant Russian cyberattacks against Western energy infrastructure is an increasingly clear and present danger

This week, Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson warned that Russian retaliation for Western strikes on chemical weapons facilities in Syria could include attacks on power networks. Moreover, on 15 March 2018, the US Department of Homeland Security (DHS) and FBI released an alert confirming that for two years, ‘Russian government cyber actors’ have been targeting America’s critical infrastructure, successfully compromising several energy networks.

In April, Cisco reported these same actors were observed manipulating a flaw in its switches to target critical infrastructure. According to a security expert at Symantec, ‘[T]hey [the Russians] have the ability to shut the power off. All that’s missing is some political motivation’. UK Defence Secretary Gavin Williamson went further, warning in January 2018 that Russian cyberattacks could kill thousands and cripple energy infrastructure. Additionally, the head of GCHQ’s National Cyber Security Centre (NCSC), Ciaran Martin, stated that Russia had attacked the UK’s power supply on the day of last year’s election, while a recent report leaked from the NCSC advised that several control systems in Britain’s energy sector have probably already been compromised by Russia.

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