Washington and London have detailed how Russian-backed hackers have been compromising network devices around the world since 2015. The announcement has come amid heightened tensions between the two countries and Russia.

Cyber-attack from Russia - Stock photo (picture-alliance/chromorange/C. Ohde)

The US and Britain warned on Monday of a Russian government-sponsored cyber attack against internet network infrastructure around the world.

Britain’s National Cyber Security Centre, the US Department of Homeland Security and the FBI issued a joint statement on the attack, which they said began in 2015 and could have laid the groundwork for further cyber attacks in the future.

Read more: Cybersecurity: Why it’s ‘hard to protect yourself’ online

What the statement said:

  • Hackers backed by the Russian government have exploited “large numbers of” routers and switches around the world since 2015.
  • The attack focused on governments, businesses, “critical infrastructure,” and internet service providers. The statement did not identify any victims by name.
  • The FBI has “high confidence” that the hackers are using the compromised networks to spy, steal intellectual property, and “potentially lay a foundation for future offensive operations.”

Read more: Trump administration hits Russia with new sanctions for election meddling, cyber attacks

Watch video01:57

Cyberattacks through the years

Why say something now? The US and Britain said they wanted to warn organizations they may be affected and call on them to inform authorities if they discover breaches.

No comment from Russia: Moscow has not responded to the statement. It has previously dismissed allegations it was responsible for cyber attacks against the US and other countries, including meddling in the 2016 US presidential election and attacks against the US power grid.

‘Grizzly Steppe’: The US Department of Homeland Security separately said the attack was part of a larger Russian-backed operation called “Grizzly Steppe.”

Read more: The new digital insecurity

Ukraine attack: Washington and London blamed Moscow in February for a debilitating 2017 cyber attack against Ukraine called “NotPetya,” which also damaged IT devices worldwide.

Bad relations: Tensions are already strained between the two sides. Russia has heavily criticized the US, UK and France for launching airstrikes against Russia-ally Syria, while Washington and London have accused Moscow of responsibility for a nerve-agent attack against a former Russian double agent in southern England.

Read more: Germany admits hackers infiltrated federal ministries, Russian group suspected

Watch video02:20

Cyberattack against Germany’s government ‘ongoing’

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