United States and UK accuse Russian Federation of global cyber attack

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Australian companies have been caught up in suspected Russian cyber attacks that have affected "millions of machines" worldwide, authorities say.

The cyberwar between the west and Russian Federation has escalated after the United Kingdom and the U.S. issued a joint alert accusing Moscow of mounting a "malicious" internet offensive that appeared to be aimed at espionage, stealing intellectual property and laying the foundation for an attack on infrastructure.

Shortly after the announcement, the White House said Joyce would leave his post and return to the U.S. National Security Agency.

"The points which this reinforces for us as a government, and should reinforce for all Australians, is that vigilance is absolutely imperative in terms of cyber security", Senator Payne told reporters in Adelaide on Tuesday. Rather, it is part of a broader ongoing effort by the United States government to call out bad behaviour in cyberspace and impose costs as a deterrent.

"We are pushing back and we're pushing back hard", said Rob Joyce, White House special assistant to the president and cybersecurity director.

"The UK Government will continue to work with the U.S., other global allies and industry partners to expose Russia's unacceptable cyber behaviour, so they are held accountable for their actions", PA quoted NCSC chief executive Ciaran Martin as saying.

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"For over twenty years, GCHQ has been tracking the key Russian cyber attack groups and today's joint UK-US alert shows that the threat has not gone away".

"We don't have full insight into the scope of the compromise", said Jeanette Manfra, a cybersecurity official for the US Department of Homeland Security.

The agencies, which include the Federal Bureau of Investigation, do not know precisely how many routers, firewalls and switches have been compromised and to what extent.

Washington and London issued a joint alert saying the campaign by Russian government-backed hackers was meant to advance spying, intellectual property theft and other "malicious" activities and could be escalated to launch offensive attacks.

Network device vendors, ISPs, public sector organisations, private sector corporations and small office and home office customers should read the alert (TA18-106A - https://www.us-cert.gov/ncas/alerts/TA18-106A) and act on the recommended mitigation strategies.

"Many of the techniques used by Russian Federation exploit basic weaknesses in network systems", Martin said. It was not clear whether that compromise was part of the same campaign.