UK defense secretary urges NATO to fend off Russian cyberattacks

Norwegian authorities also say suspected Russian hackers have been targeting civil servants

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Credit: Russian Presidential Executive Office

The U.K.’s defense secretary is accusing Russia of using cyberattacks to “disable” democratic processes across the West, and he's demanding that NATO fight back.

“NATO must defend itself as effectively in the cyber sphere as it does in the air, on land, and at sea,” Defense Secretary Michael Fallon said. “So adversaries know there is a price to pay if they use cyber weapons.”

Fallon made the comments in a Thursday speech about the threat of “Russia’s military resurgence.”

He pointed to the Kremlin’s suspected role in influencing last year’s presidential election in the U.S., as part of growing number of alleged cyberattacks that have targeted Western governments.   

“Russia is clearly testing NATO and the West,” he said. “It is seeking to expand its sphere of influence, destabilize countries, and weaken the alliance.”

The suspected Russian cyberattacks on Western governments appear to be ongoing. On Friday, the Norwegian security service reportedly said that nine personal civil servant email accounts were targeted with spear-phishing email attacks from elite Russian cyberspies.

Germany’s intelligence agency also warned in December that a Russian hacking group had been sending spear-phishing email attacks to local politicians as a way to tamper with the country’s upcoming election.

The Kremlin, however, has denied sponsoring any hacks against foreign governments. It’s even called attempts by U.S. intelligence agencies to link Russia to the intrusions as part of a misguided “witch hunt.”

Nevertheless, the U.K.’s defense secretary said its Western allies should support reform to NATO to make it “agile, resilient and better configured” against cyberattacks.

Fallon also accused Russia of “weaponizing misinformation” to spread propaganda against Western governments. He urged NATO and its allies to move faster to counter the “false reality” promoted by the Kremlin.

“A lie can travel half way around the world while the truth is putting its boots on,” he said.

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