Amid reports of Russian interference in the Brexit referendum, a UK government official said on Wednesday that Russian cyber operatives have attacked Britain’s media, telecommunications and energy sectors over the past year.
“Russia is seeking to undermine the international system. That much is clear,” Ciaran Martin, head of Britain’s National Cyber Security Centre (NCSC) said at a London tech conference.
Though Martin said Russia is among the hostile threats posing a growing threat, alongside that from “rampant criminality”, he declined to provide any details on the attacks.
“The Prime Minister sent Russia a clear message on Monday night – we know what you are doing, and you will not succeed,” he told the summit.
The centre has coordinated the government’s response to 590 significant incidents since its launch in 2016, although the government agency has not detailed which were linked to Russia.
“I can’t get into too much of the details of intelligence matters, but I can confirm that Russian interference, seen by the NCSC, has included attacks on the UK media, telecommunications and energy sectors.
Martin warned that the “international order as we know it is in danger of being eroded” amid a record number of detected cyber attacks and hacking attempts.
The remarks come after Prime Minister Theresa May on Monday accused Russia of spreading disinformation, echoing a heated debate in the United States over alleged Russian interference in the 2016 presidential election.
May on Monday accused Moscow of “seeking to weaponise information” and “sow discord in the West and undermine our institutions”.
Russia’s cyber activities include “deploying its state-run media organisations to plant fake stories and photo-shopped images”, she said in a speech.
Researchers at the University of Edinburgh concluded that 400 fake Twitter accounts believed to be run from Russia published posts about Brexit in an apparent attempt to influence the EU referendum.
Russia, though has strongly denied any election interference in the United States.