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Russia Steps Up Hacking, Spurring US-UK Warning on Risk

April 17, 2018 8:05 am

Russia is using compromised computer-network equipment to attack U.S. and British companies and government agencies, the two countries warned in an unprecedented joint alert.

The warning on Monday came from the U.S. Department of Homeland Security and Federal Bureau of Investigation and Britain’s National Cyber Security Center. It included advice to companies about how to protect themselves and warned specifically of attacks on routers, the devices that channel data around a network.

“Russian state-sponsored actors are using compromised routers to conduct spoofing ‘man-in-the-middle’ attacks to support espionage, extract intellectual property, maintain persistent access to victim networks and potentially lay a foundation for future offensive operations,” according to a joint statement. “Multiple sources including private and public-sector cybersecurity research organizations and allies have reported this activity to the U.S. and U.K. governments.”

The main advice offered Monday for individuals and companies: Make sure that your router software is up-to-date and its password is secure.

“Once you own the router, you own the traffic,” Jeanette Manfra, assistant secretary at the Department of Homeland Security, told reporters on a joint conference call.

Low Point

U.S. and U.K. relations with Vladimir Putin’s administration are at a low point, following the alleged use of nerve agent to poison a former double agent in Britain in March and the U.S.-led bombing of Syria over the weekend after the Russian ally’s alleged use of chemical weapons on civilians. Britain’s GCHQ intelligence agency had already warned that Russia was using its cyber capabilities to target democracies.