Russian cyber attack would cripple UK infrastructure, warns defence secretary

An attack would cause "thousands and thousands of deaths" says Gavin Williamson

UK business

The UK's defence secretary has warned that a cyber attack by Russia could cripple Britain's infrastructure and cause "thousands and thousands and thousands of deaths".

Gavin Williamson told The Telegraph that the Russian government has been researching the UK's energy supply and supporting infrastructure, which if it were to launch a cyber attack against would cause "total chaos" for Britain.

Williamson noted that a cyber attack from Russian is the "real threat" the UK is currently facing, noting that an attack from Moscow would come from the digital not physical world.

"The plan for the Russians won't be for landing craft to appear in the South Bay in Scarborough, and off Brighton beach," Williamson told the Telegraph.

Advertisement - Article continues below
Advertisement - Article continues below

"They are going to be thinking, 'how can we just cause so much pain to Britain?

"Damage its economy, rip its infrastructure apart, actually cause thousands and thousands and thousands of deaths, but actually have an element of creating total chaos within the country."

Such comments may be seen as hyperbolic and paranoia tinged, but Williamson statements were backed up by security minister Lord West, who also serves as Britain's First Seal Lord. West said he was "absolutely certain" Russia has been looking at how it could access the UK's critical infrastructure.

Moscow has not responded to Williamson's claims at the time of writing.

23/01/18: NCSC: Severe cyber attack on UK is unavoidable

A serious cyber attack on the UK's vital infrastructure is inevitable, according to the head of the National Cyber Security Centre (NCSC).

Advertisement - Article continues below

The UK has been lucky to avoid such an attack while the US, France, and Ukraine have all suffered this kind of interference, but that luck won't last forever, said Ciaran Martin in an interview with the Guardian.

"It is a matter of when, not if and we will be fortunate to come to the end of the decade without having to trigger a category one attack," he said.

"Some attacks will get through. What you need to do is cauterise the damage."

Category one attacks include any hacks that can damage or bring down infrastructure like energy grids, financial services or even elections.

Advertisement - Article continues below

The US is still investigating the extent of suspected Russian interference in its 2016 presidential election, while France withdrew an electronic vote over hacking fears in June last year. Ukraine's power grid was brought down by a hack known as BlackEnergy in 2015, and suffered a similar power cut a year later.

The NCSC is due to publish a report on how successful its security strategies have proved since it opened in October 2016, according to the Guardian.

Advertisement - Article continues below

The dossier will include a ranking of cyber attacks, which sees the WannaCry ransomware that targeted businesses but also hospitals classed as a category two attack, partly because it presented no risk to life, though it caused widespread delays to hospital operations.

There were 32 such category two attacks, the NCSC told the publication, and 762 category three attacks.

Featured Resources

Digitally perfecting the supply chain

How new technologies are being leveraged to transform the manufacturing supply chain

Download now

Three keys to maximise application migration and modernisation success

Harness the benefits that modernised applications can offer

Download now

Your enterprise cloud solutions guide

Infrastructure designed to meet your company's IT needs for next-generation cloud applications

Download now

The 3 approaches of Breach and Attack Simulation technologies

A guide to the nuances of BAS, helping you stay one step ahead of cyber criminals

Download now



What is cyber warfare?

20 Sep 2019
internet security

Avast and AVG extensions pulled from Chrome

19 Dec 2019

Google confirms Android cameras can be hijacked to spy on you

20 Nov 2019

Most Popular

operating systems

17 Windows 10 problems - and how to fix them

13 Jan 2020
Microsoft Windows

What to do if you're still running Windows 7

14 Jan 2020
web browser

What is HTTP error 503 and how do you fix it?

7 Jan 2020
General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR)

Data protection fines hit £100m during first 18 months of GDPR

20 Jan 2020