Alexander Zemlianichenko/Associated Press
LONDON—U.S. and U.K. intelligence agencies said Russian cyberattackers are targeting critical internet infrastructure to spy on Western companies and governments, the latest salvo in a diplomatic crisis that has brought relations between Moscow and the West to their lowest level in decades.
In a rare joint alert, the U.S. Department of Homeland Security, the Federal Bureau of Investigation and the U.K.’s National Cyber Security Centre said Russian state-sponsored hackers had penetrated devices and software programs world-wide, ranging from routers to switches to firewalls, in order to steal corporate secrets and conduct espionage.
They also warned the covert Russian action is aimed at laying the groundwork for future offensive cyberattacks against Western targets. The Russian campaign “threatens our respective safety, security and economic well-being,” the agencies said.
Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov said Tuesday the accusations were “unsubstantiated and have no value,” according to news agency Interfax.
The warning from the U.S. and U.K. opens a new front in a broad Western effort to confront Russia over what Washington and its allies see as a growing pattern of interference and disruption.
Washington on Monday said it is evaluating fresh sanctions on Russian entities and companies as part of a wide-ranging response to a suspected chemical-weapons attack in the Syrian city of Douma last week, which Western governments believe was carried out by Syrian President
a close Moscow ally.
The Trump administration has ratcheted up economic pressure on Moscow amid spiraling diplomatic tensions resulting from a series of events, including the Kremlin’s alleged intervention in U.S. elections, a nerve-agent attack in the U.K. on a former Russian double agent and his daughter, cyberattacks on critical U.S. infrastructure, Moscow’s military engagements in eastern Ukraine and its support of Mr. Assad.
The U.S., France and the U.K. on Saturday attacked Syrian military installations and research bases that they believe house the Assad regime’s chemical weapons capabilities in strikes aimed at deterring their future use.
A host of Western governments have expelled dozens of Russian diplomats in protest at the poisoning in March of Sergei Skripal, a former Russian colonel who spied for the British, and his daughter in the English city of Salisbury. The Kremlin denies any involvement.
In warning of the Russian cyber offensive, U.S. and U.K. agencies said they would provide technical support to companies, public-sector organizations and internet service providers to combat the threat.
“Russia is our most capable hostile adversary in cyberspace,” said
chief executive of the U.K.’s National Cyber Security Centre, part of Britain’s communications intelligence service, known as GCHQ.
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