Britain helped 16 Nato countries tackle Russia cyber threat, says Hunt

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Britain has helped 16 Nato countries counter malicious “Russian cyber activities” in the past year and a half, the Foreign Secretary will announce.

Jeremy Hunt is expected to challenge members of the international alliance to clamp down on Russia’s “global campaign” to influence elections and target infrastructure.

Countries outside of Nato have also been informed about Russian cyber threats by the National Cyber Security Centre, which was set up in October 2016, he will say.

In a speech on Thursday to Nato ambassadors and the secretary general, Jens Stoltenberg, Mr Hunt will add: “We judge that Russia’s intelligence services are targeting the critical national infrastructure of many countries in order to look for vulnerabilities.

“This global campaign also seeks to compromise central government networks.

“I can disclose that in the last 18 months, the National Cyber Security Centre has shared information and assessments with 16 Nato allies – and even more nations outside the Alliance – of Russian cyber activity in their countries.”

Mr Stoltenberg will also use a speech to the conference to warn how cyber attacks could “damage our economies, undermine our democracies and have a crippling impact on military capabilities”.

Mr Hunt is expected to outline how Britain has given technical support to help countries counter the Russia threat, during his speech to the Nato Cyber Defence Pledge Conference in London.

“Recent events demonstrate that our adversaries regard democratic elections as a key vulnerability of an open society,” he will add.

“We must be crystal clear that any cyber operations designed to manipulate another country’s electoral system and alter the result would breach international law – and justify a proportionate response.

“Together, we possess options for responding to any attacks that fall below the threshold for Article V. We should be prepared to use them.”

Article V states an attack against one member of Nato is considered an attack against all members.

“The challenge today is therefore to apply the eternal verities at the heart of Nato’s success to the Alliance’s newest operational domain,” the Foreign Secretary will say.

“And that means deterrence – strengthening our joint ability to deter those who would harm our citizens in cyberspace.”

Mr Stoltenberg is expected to tell the conference that Nato is strengthening its resources to tackle cyber threats, adding: “Allies are ready to use cyber capabilities to fight, but potential attackers must know that we are not limited to a cyber response against attacks.”

A meeting of national security advisers from all 29 member states is scheduled at the Nato headquarters in Brussels next week.

“It is a recognition that hybrid threats, including cyber threats, need a whole of a government response,” the secretary general will add.

“It takes just one ‘click’ to send a cyber virus spreading across the globe but it takes a global effort to stop it from inflicting chaos.”

Nato pledged to strengthen national cyber defence at the 2016 Warsaw Summit, where it also agreed that there be an annual Cyber Defence Pledge Conference.

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