Cyber equivalent of the Wagner Group is targeting UK infrastructure in bid to 'disrupt or destroy', minister warns

19 April 2023, 13:18

The cyber equivalent of the Wagner Group is targeting UK infrastructure
The cyber equivalent of the Wagner Group is targeting UK infrastructure. Picture: Alamy

By Emma Soteriou

The UK is facing "ideologically motivated" cyber threats from "Wagner-like" Russia hackers, Oliver Dowden has warned.

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The latest cyber security threat can be compared to the Wagner paramilitary organisation, Cabinet Office minister Oliver Dowden said.

The groups are "ideologically motivated, rather than financially motivated" and have begun to target the UK this year with the intention to "disrupt or destroy", he told the CyberUK conference in Belfast.

Mr Dowden confirmed that the National Cyber Security Centre (NCSC) is issuing an "official threat notice" to operators of critical national infrastructure amid concerns about the growing cyber threat.

Read more: Chilling video shows Russian Wagner commanders admit killing children as young as five in execution campaign in Ukraine

Read more: US reporter charged with spying against Russia appears in court in first public sighting for weeks

Oliver Dowden spoke at the CyberUK conference
Oliver Dowden spoke at the CyberUK conference. Picture: Alamy

"These adversaries are ideologically motivated, rather than financially motivated," he said.

"Disclosing this threat is not something we do lightly but we believe it is necessary... if we want these companies to understand the current risk they face, and take action to defend themselves and the country."

Mr Dowden announced plans to set "specific and ambitious cyber resilience targets" for all critical national infrastructure sectors to meet within two years, as well as moves to bring private sector businesses working on critical infrastructure into the scope of resilience regulations.

"These are the companies in charge of keeping our country running. Of keeping the lights on," he said.

"Our shared prosperity depends on them taking their own security seriously.

"A bricks-and-mortar business wouldn't survive if it left the back door open to criminals every night. Equally in today's world, businesses can't afford... to leave their digital back door open to cyber crooks and hackers.

"The safer we make our businesses, the safer we make our economy - and the more attractive we become as a destination for entrepreneurs.

"The fact that the UK has in the last few years taken cybersecurity so seriously already makes us one of the best places in the world to invest."

Mr Dowden also admitted "the Government needs to break through its own glass ceiling" on attracting talented cyber-trained experts, with a promise to look at whether salaries can be improved.

"These are people protecting the systems and public services that millions of people across the country rely on every day, so we should want the very best people in charge of them. We must be competitive to stay ahead," he said.

He also used his speech to announce new cyber security measures, known as GovAssure and run from the Cabinet Office, to protect the UK's critical IT systems.

Concerns have mounted in recent years about the danger posed by cyber attacks.