US paratroops on standby and UK braced for Russian cyber attacks as Ukraine tensions rise

28 January 2022, 06:02 | Updated: 28 January 2022, 09:53

The has been UK warned to bolster defences against cyber attacks from Russia
The has been UK warned to bolster defences against cyber attacks from Russia. Picture: Alamy

By Megan Hinton

Britain has been warned to bolster their digital defences after "malicious" cyber incidents in Ukraine as tensions with Russia rise.

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The National Cyber Security Centre (NCSC) updated its guidance to UK firms and groups, confirming it is is investigating the recent reports of "malicious cyber incidents in Ukraine".

The NCSC said it had not identified any current threats to the UK, but noted its updated guidance would allow organisations "to build resilience and stay ahead of potential threats".

Tensions have soared in recent weeks, as NATO allies expressed concern a build-up of about 100,000 Russian troops near Ukraine signalled Moscow planned to invade its ex-Soviet neighbour.

Russia denies having any such designs and has laid out a series of demands it says will improve security in Europe.

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The centre's director of operations, Paul Chichester, said: "The NCSC is committed to raising awareness of evolving cyber threats and presenting actionable steps to mitigate them.

"While we are unaware of any specific cyber threats to UK organisations in relation to events in Ukraine, we are monitoring the situation closely and it is vital that organisations follow the guidance to ensure they are resilient.

"Over several years, we have observed a pattern of malicious Russian behaviour in cyberspace. Last week's incidents in Ukraine bear the hallmarks of similar Russian activity we have observed before."

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It comes as US President Joe Biden warned Ukraine's president there is a "distinct possibility" Russia could take military action against Ukraine in February.

The Kremlin sounded a similarly grim note, saying it saw "little ground for optimism" in resolving the crisis after the US this week again rejected Russia's main demands.

The White House said President Biden's comments to Ukraine's Volodymyr Zelenskyy, amplified concerns that administration officials have been making for some time.

"President Biden said that there is a distinct possibility that the Russians could invade Ukraine in February," White House National Security Council spokesperson Emily Horne said.

"He has said this publicly and we have been warning about this for months. "

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President Biden warned Mr Zelenskyy that the US believed there was a high degree of likelihood Russia could invade when the ground freezes and Russian forces could attack Ukrainian territory from north of Kyiv, according to two people familiar with the conversation who were not authorised to comment publicly.

Mr Zelenskyy tweeted that he and President Biden also discussed the possibility of additional financial support for Ukraine.