LONDON: GCHQ spies have called an emergency summit with British politicians following warnings that Russia has the capabilities to use cyberattackers to disrupt the next General Election. Sources say that state-sponsored hackers, backed by the Kremlin, could use their hacking abilities to disrupt the election process. With protecting the UK political system now considered “priority work” by the UK intelligence agency, spies are concerned that Russian hackers could do anything from steal and leak internal emails, damage the reputations of political parties by publishing confidential information or publish private databases of voters’ political views. Russia has already been accused of utilizing cyberattacks to assist Donald Trump in winning the US presidential election by publishing rival candidate Hilary Clinton’s private emails. Trump winning the election was Russia’s choice – with the now-president showing his support for the country many times — and as a result of the claims, former President Obama expelled Russian diplomats from the United States. Back in February, UK defence secretary Michael Fallon warned that Russia “used cyber weapons to disrupt critical infrastructure and “disable democratic machinery,” in what Fallon calls “persistent behavior” designed to test the West.
In a letter to the leaders of all major UK political parties, chief executive of the National Cyber Security Centre (NCSC) Ciaran Martin said the agency is ready to help political parties strengthen their network security against any form of cyberattack which may threaten them. As part of the offering, the NCSC – a unit of GCHQ dedicated to protecting critical UK services from cyber attacks — will organize a “technical seminar” together with the Centre for the Protection of National Infrastructure to provide education and training on cyberattacks. “You will be aware of the coverage of events in the United States, Germany and elsewhere reminding us of the potential for hostile action against the UK political system,” says Martin in the letter. “This is not just about the network security of political parties’ own systems.” “Attacks against our democratic processes go beyond this and can include attacks on parliament, constituency offices, think tanks and pressure groups and individuals’ email accounts,” Martin added. The GCHQ admitted to the publication that the letter had been sent to politicians, but did not confirm that Russia was specificially mentioned. Russia has persistently denied any wrongdoing or involvement in politically-charged cyberattacks. When queried concerning the report, foreign minister Boris Johnson said there is “no evidence” that Russia is attempting to disrupt the UK’s political system “at the moment,” but admitted that Russia has the capabilities to do so. “There is no doubt that they’ve been up to all sorts of dirty tricks,” Johnson added.