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Thursday, 15 February 2018 15:33

UK formally blames Russia for NotPetya attack, US follows Featured


Britain has formally blamed Russia for the NotPetya ransomware attack in June last year, with Foreign Office Minister Lord Ahmad saying the decision "underlines the fact that the UK and its allies will not tolerate malicious cyber activity".

A statement from the Foreign Office on Thursday said the attack, which took place on 27 June 2017, tried to disguise itself as the work of a criminal enterprise but was meant mainly to disrupt.

It claimed that the primary targets were Ukrainian financial, energy and government sectors, but the indiscriminate design of the malware caused it to spread further, affecting other European and Russian businesses.

Update: Overnight, the White House also laid the blame for NotPetya on Russia. "In June 2017, the Russian military launched the most destructive and costly cyber-attack in history," a statement said.

"The attack, dubbed 'NotPetya', quickly spread worldwide, causing billions of dollars in damage across Europe, Asia, and the Americas. It was part of the Kremlin’s ongoing effort to destabilise Ukraine and demonstrates ever more clearly Russia’s involvement in the ongoing conflict. This was also a reckless and indiscriminate cyber-attack that will be met with international consequences."

Original story continues: Among some more prominent victims of the ransomware, which came to be known variously as Petya (nomenclature given to ransomware that already existed at the time), NotPetya, ExPetr, Nyetya and GoldenEye, were the US pharmaceutical company Merck, Russia's state oil company Rosneft, the shipping conglomerate Maersk and the UK-based advertising and public relations firm WPP.

Also badly hit were the banking, electric and gas sectors in Ukraine, with the malware spreading to the UK, Denmark and Spain.

notpetya big

The notice that appeared on Windows computers that were hit by the NotPetya ransomware in June last year.

The Russian security firm Global-IB said at the time that in Ukraine, large banks and enterprises, namely, Oschadbank, Ukrgasbank, Pivdenny Bank, OTP Bank, TASKombank, The Epicenter chain store, Kovalska industrial and construction group, three major Ukrainian telecom operators, Kyivstar, LifeCell, Ukrtelecom, were among those affected.

Lord Ahmad said: "The UK Government judges that the Russian Government, specifically the Russian military, was responsible for the destructive NotPetya cyber-attack of June 2017.

"The attack showed a continued disregard for Ukrainian sovereignty. Its reckless release disrupted organisations across Europe costing hundreds of millions of pounds.

"The Kremlin has positioned Russia in direct opposition to the West, yet it doesn’t have to be that way. We call upon Russia to be the responsible member of the international community it claims to be rather then secretly trying to undermine it.

"The UK is identifying, pursuing and responding to malicious cyber activity regardless of where it originates, imposing costs on those who would seek to do us harm. We are committed to strengthening coordinated international efforts to uphold a free, open, peaceful and secure cyber space."

In a statement, Russia said it "strongly rejected" the "groundless accusations" by the UK that it was behind the NotPetya attack.

"We strongly reject such accusations, we consider them to be groundless, they are part of the similarly groundless campaign based on hatred against Russia," Russian presidential spokesman Dmitry Peskov said.

Ransomware affects Microsoft Windows systems in the main. Mac ransomware is very rare.

Graphic: courtesy Kaspersky Lab


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Sam Varghese

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Sam Varghese has been writing for iTWire since 2006, a year after the site came into existence. For nearly a decade thereafter, he wrote mostly about free and open source software, based on his own use of this genre of software. Since May 2016, he has been writing across many areas of technology. He has been a journalist for nearly 40 years in India (Indian Express and Deccan Herald), the UAE (Khaleej Times) and Australia (Daily Commercial News (now defunct) and The Age). His personal blog is titled Irregular Expression.



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