The FSB has been engaged in cyber attacks against the UK for years

(To Renato Caputo)

The UK has accused the FSB of a long campaign of cyber hacking. The British government has accused the Russians of carrying out hundreds of targeted hack attacks against politicians, government officials, think tank staff, journalists, scientists and other public figures. It is mainly about thehacking of personal emails and the creation of fake accounts. Among the victims there is also a member of the British parliament.

British authorities suspect that a group linked to the FSB, and in particular a part of it known as 18 Center, has been stealing information from political and public figures since at least 2015. The group is said to remain active.

Additionally, British authorities said a group of hackers stole material related to the 2019 election.

Russia has repeatedly denied its involvement in such activities. In particular, among the stolen documents there would be some relating to the email account of Liam Fox, who held the position of Secretary of State for International Trade from 2016 to 2019 and Secretary of State for Defense from 2010 to 2011.

Among the stolen information, some detailed British trade negotiations with the United States.

Foreign Secretary David Cameron said the group's actions were "completely unacceptable". The Foreign Office said the attacks had been largely unsuccessful, although it acknowledged that some had led to the "leak of documents".

Under-Secretary of State at the Foreign Office, Leo Docherty, told the House of Commons on 7 December that, in response to the interference, the Foreign Office said it had sanctioned those involved in this illicit activity and summoned the Russian ambassador.

Due to the unavailability of the Russian ambassador, British officials met with the deputy head of the Russian embassy to whom they expressed Britain's deep concerns about the alleged cyber attacks. The United States is also expected to announce measures against the group.

The head of the National Cyber ​​Security Center (NCSC) of the UK, Lindy Cameron, has previously warned that the UK is not doing enough to protect itself from cyber threats.

“As I warned earlier this year, state actors, and the 'Wagner-style' substate hackers they use to do their dirty work, will continue to target our public institutions and democratic processes.”, said Deputy Prime Minister Oliver Dowden.

In February this year, Scottish National Party (SNP) MP Stuart McDonald revealed that a group allegedly linked to Russian intelligence had stolen his emails by posing as one of his collaborators. The politician had launched a public appeal to prevent his correspondence from being disclosed. At the moment, it does not appear that this has happened.

Speaking in the House of Commons on 7 December, SNP foreign affairs spokesperson Brendan O'Hare said Russia's actions were part of a "current modus operandi" and asked the government “to make cybersecurity training mandatory for all parliamentarians and their staff".

The UK prosecution, which will be followed by further moves by the US, aims to disrupt the activities of the FSB group by exposing them.

It is believed that it took some months for the US and UK to establish with sufficient certainty that FSB Center 18 was responsible for this campaign of cyber hacking and coordinated public announcements about this activity.

A previous notice from National Cyber ​​Security Center, a branch of GCHQ, warned in January of the threat of emails targeting both Russia and Iran and further warnings, including to high-profile individuals. Officials want to raise awareness of the dangers as the UK heads towards elections, likely next year. The US elections scheduled for next November could also be targeted by Russian hackers.

It is believed that the FSB group has stolen a large amount of data in recent years and only a part of it has been made public.

Asked whether they could disclose further data collected, Western officials said: "There is no evidence of such an intention. This possibility exists. They have gathered a lot of information".