UK accuses Russia of ‘sustained’ cyber-attack on politicians and journalists

LONDON – The Russian security service has compromised private conversations of high-profile U.K. politicians and media figures, the British government claimed Thursday.

The Foreign Office announced it had summoned Russia’s ambassador after warning that hacking groups controlled by Russia’s FSB security service have been behind “sustained unsuccessful attempts to interfere in U.K. political processes.”

Foreign Office Minister Leo Docherty told the House of Commons Thursday that MPs, peers, civil servants, journalists and NGOs had been among those targeted over years in an attempt to “meddle in British politics.”

He said some private conversations of high-profile politicians and civil servants had been compromised — but insisted the broader campaign had “not been successful.” And he claimed the group had “selectively leaked and amplified information” in an attempt to interfere in U.K. politics.

Deputy Prime Minister Oliver Dowden meanwhile accused the FSB of using “sub-state” hacking groups to “do their dirty work.” He said two members of a group known as “Star Blizzard” had been sanctioned following the revelations.

According to the Foreign Office, parliamentarians from across the political spectrum were targeted in spear-phishing attacks, where attempts are made to gain sensitive information, often through malicious emails. Journalists, civil society organizations and public sector groups were also targeted by the cyber-group, the department said.

Asked about the claims during a press conference Thursday, U.K. Prime Minister Rishi Sunak declined to say whether he had been targeted. Foreign Secretary David Cameron said that, despite repeated efforts to interfere in U.K. politics, the group had “failed.”

“In sanctioning those responsible and summoning the Russian Ambassador today, we are exposing their malign attempts at influence and shining a light on yet another example of how Russia chooses to operate on the global stage,” he said.

Russian authorities are yet to respond.