Russia hacked Brexit

London accuses Moscow of attempting theft

The British Cyber ​​Security Agency (NCSC) said on Thursday that it had registered Russian hacking attempts at research facilities for CoV vaccines. The hacker group APT29, also known under the name of “Cozy Bear”, operates “almost certainly” as part of the Russian secret services. The goals are institutes for research and development of vaccines in Great Britain, Canada and the USA.

"It is completely unacceptable that the Russian secret services are targeting those who are working to combat the coronavirus pandemic," said British Foreign Minister Dominic Raab. "While others pursue their selfish interests with reckless behavior, Britain and its allies continue the hard work of finding a vaccine and protecting global health."

Raab announced that his country would take action against those who were behind such cyber attacks. These would be held accountable.

Attempt to influence election "practically secured"

Raab also said on Thursday that the government considers it "practically certain" that the Russian side would try to influence the general election in 2019. "On the basis of an in-depth analysis, the government has come to the conclusion that it is practically certain that Russian actors have tried to interfere in the 2019 election," the minister said in a written statement to the parliament in London.

This happened through the mass distribution of illegally obtained government documents on the Internet. According to the Minister, the documents related to trade issues between London and Washington.

"Although there is no evidence of a large-scale Russian campaign against the parliamentary elections, any attempt to interfere in our democratic processes is completely unacceptable," continued Raab. He could not give further details because of the ongoing criminal investigation. In the early general election on December 12, the conservative Tories under Prime Minister Boris Johnson had won a clear victory. Johnson started with the election promise to implement Brexit after years of wrangling.

Explosive report on the Brexit vote

In the coming days, Parliament’s Secret Service Committee will also publish its report on the suspicion of Russian interference in the June 2016 Brexit vote. At that time, the British had decided by a narrow majority to leave the European Union. As in the US presidential election in the same year, there is suspicion that Russia might have manipulated the vote.

Russia rejects allegations

Russia rejected all allegations. "We have no information on who could have hacked pharmaceutical companies and research centers in the UK," said Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov. Moscow has "nothing to do with these attempts". Peskow also rejected the “baseless accusations of interference in the 2019 elections”.

The Russian Embassy in London rejected the allegations as "propaganda". Russia is actively involved in the fight against the corona virus internationally, including in Great Britain's initiatives. "In response, we get accusations that we tried to steal information about a vaccine," said the Russian embassy.

Moscow has also always offered London a dialogue in the event of cybersecurity threats. The embassy announced that there is a specially created Russian national coordination center for computer incidents. However, there have never been any inquiries about possible attacks from Russia via the official channels.

Relationships have been strained for a long time

Relations between Great Britain and Russia have been extremely tense for a long time - among other things because of the poison attack on the former Russian double agent Sergej Skripal and his daughter Julia in March 2018 in Salisbury, England. The British government blames the Russian secret service for the attack. Moscow also rejects these allegations.

Just last week, the UK imposed sanctions on Russian actors alleged to have committed human rights abuses. Russia immediately announced counter-sanctions.