Amid warnings over the growing threat of cyber warfare from Russia, and after the Salisbury incident, Theresa May will strengthen UK’s digital defences through a £15m online security pact with Commonwealth allies.
UK and US intelligence agencies issued a joint alert on the threat of “malicious cyber activity” by Russian state-sponsored hackers, backed by the Kremlin. This unprecedented move was prompted as tensions between them and Moscow deepen over the Syrian airstrikes. The hackers have been mounting attacks on millions of devices around the world to spy, harvest data, and build networks. Just last year the NHS was struck by a devastating ransomware attack. The National Cyber Security Centre (NCSC), the FBI and the US Department of Homeland Security stated the Kremlin’s actions threatened “our respective safety, security, and economic well-being.”
Apart from “cyber operations”, seeking to cause technological interferences, another threat is “information operations”, which attempt to manipulate social media feeds, plant fake news stories, blast TV and radio channels with propaganda, and undermine the state or authentic sources of media.
May emphasised that:
“online crime does not respect international border”.
“I have called on Commonwealth leaders to take action and to work collectively to tackle this threat. Our package of funding will enable members to review their cyber security capability, and deliver the stability and resilience that we all need to stay safe online and grow our digital economies. The Commonwealth plays a pivotal role in shaping the future for many of its members.”
It is also the first time that security has been put on the agenda together, with the aim of “build[ing]a safer future both for Britain, and for the 2.4 billion people around the world who live in the Commonwealth”.
Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson warned that the UK must “take every possible precaution” to defend itself from Russia. Today May will meet with the other so-called “Five Eyes” group, Australian prime minister Malcolm Turnbull, New Zealand’s Jacinda Ardern, and Canada’s Justin Trudeau, as well as with the US.