23 February 2022

Patel warns of Russian threat to UK amid tensions over Ukraine

23 February 2022

The Government is stepping up preparations for a possible Russian cyberattack and other hostile activity amid heightened tensions over Ukraine, Home Secretary Priti Patel said.

Ms Patel said the UK’s opposition to President Vladimir Putin’s aggression against his neighbour was likely to have “consequences” at home.

Speaking to reporters, she said that even before the current crisis the warning lights had been “flashing red … for years and years”.

“Look at Salisbury, look at the cyberattacks, you know, just look at attempts to interfere in our democracy, etc, etc. These are all live issues for us, and they are every single day,” she said.

“So on that basis, there is a great deal of work taking place, obviously, with our intelligence and security agencies who lead the way.

“I think it’s fair to say, right now, when we are in what is – quite frankly – open conflict, criticising, rightly so, calling for Putin to stop all the activity around Ukraine, it comes with consequences to us.

“The risk is alive. And on that basis, we are absolutely stepping up everything that we need to domestically.”

While it is understood that no new specific threats to the UK have been identified as a result of the situation in Ukraine, the National Cyber Security Centre (NCSC) has been urging businesses to ensure their cybersecurity measures are up to date.

We are seeing multiple Russian cyber actors attempting to conduct operations

Britain has also been providing support to Ukraine, which has recently faced a major “distributed denial-of-service attack” which the UK publicly attributed to Russian military intelligence the GRU.

Western officials said the level of activity that they were seeing was consistent with what they had seen in the past but they were monitoring the situation closely for any signs of escalation.

“We are seeing multiple Russian cyber actors attempting to conduct operations,” one official said.

“It is consistent and predictable. It is consistent with a previous pattern of interest in Ukraine. We have not seen something that has taken it to a completely different level. There is a range of possibilities. We are watching it closely.

“Whether you would see that (increase in activity) hours before any significant escalation or days, either is possible. Either would have a possible cause and effect in support of a wider military campaign that would be useful.”

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