UK lays the blame for NotPetya cyberattack at Russia’s door

15 Feb 2018

Red Square, Moscow. Image: rtem/Shutterstock

The UK government says the Russian military was directly responsible for 2017’s NotPetya attack.

The NotPetya attack that occurred in the summer of 2017 was nothing short of disastrous. A derivative of the WannaCry ransomware attack, it spread to numerous organisations around the world, from Boryspil International Airport in Kiev to the port of Mumbai. It was also referred to in the media as GoldenEye, Petya and ExPetr.

At the time, many experts hypothesised that NotPetya was not ransomware, but rather, something called a ‘wiper’. It demanded a bitcoin ransom for file access, but users who paid would never recover those files.

The destructive motivations were highlighted by researchers and now, months later, the UK government has taken the step of publicly blaming Russia for last June’s attack.

Russia to blame, say UK authorities

Defence secretary Gavin Williamson described Russia as “ripping up the rule book”, declaring that the UK had a duty to respond to the attack. According to The Register, the UK government has attributed the attack specifically to the Russian military.

The UK National Cyber Security Centre (NCSC) said that the Russian military was “almost certainly responsible for the destructive NotPetya cyberattack of June 2017”.

UK foreign office minister for cybersecurity, Lord Tariq Ahmad, published a statement on 15 February regarding the issue. He wrote: “The United Kingdom is identifying, pursuing and responding to malicious cyber activity regardless of where it originates, imposing costs on those who would seek to do us harm.”

Ukraine was the first hit by NotPetya last year, with the country swiftly pointing the finger at Russia as the source of the malware. Ukrainian authorities believed the attack was part of apparent Russian efforts to destabilise the country.

Calling on Russia to take responsibility

Ahmad continued: “The attack showed a continued disregard for Ukrainian sovereignty. Its reckless release disrupted organisations across Europe, costing hundreds of millions of pounds.”

He directly called on Russia in his statement “to be the responsible member of the international community it claims to be”.

Williamson noted: “We have entered a new era of warfare, witnessing a destructive and deadly mix of conventional military might and malicious cyberattacks.”

Russia has continually denied responsibility for the attack, pointing out that Russian firms were also damaged by last summer’s events.

UK prime minister Theresa May had previously accused Russian president Vladimir Putin of “attempting to sow discord” by interfering in the political processes of other nations.

Ellen Tannam was a journalist with Silicon Republic, covering all manner of business and tech subjects