Kremlin accused of sponsoring cyberattacks targeting U.S. national security

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According to the alert, "t$3 he targets of this malicious cyber activity are primarily government and private-sector organizations, critical infrastructure providers, and the internet service providers (ISPs) supporting these sectors". The announcement has come amid heightened tensions between the two countries and Russian Federation.

Williams, who is the president of Rendition Infosec, said, "Calling the Russians out on this hardly makes much sense unless there's some other agenda (most likely political)".

Officials said the activity had been under observation for "some time" and was not directly related to missile strikes on Syria. Rather, it is part of a broader ongoing effort by the USA government to call out bad behaviour in cyberspace and impose costs as a deterrent.

Russia's attacks on the United Kingdom's digital defences have prompted four countries in the Five Eyes security alliance to demand action.

"What the Russians have been doing is scanning the internet to see what vulnerable routers are out there", says CNET reporter Alfred Ng.

Cybersecurity officials from the United States and Britain issued a rare joint technical alert Monday, accusing Russian Federation of engaging in malicious activity to support espionage or steal intellectual property.

Though the governments are not sure how many devices have been compromised by the hackers nor what the objective is, the targeting affects millions of devices globally, U.S. officials said on a call with reporters Monday morning.

Jeanette Manfra, DHS assistant secretary for cybersecurity, said the alert is a "call for all responsible nations to use their resources - including diplomatic, law enforcement, technical, and other means - to address the Russian cyber threat". Most traffic within a company or between organisations traverses them.

The Australian government has indicated that the attacks targeted network infrastructure devices such as routers, switches and firewalls, including Cisco networking gear. However, Australian cybersecurity minister Angus Taylor claimed there was "no indication Australian information has been successfully compromised".

Russian Federation might be tapping into millions of home or small business computers and other devices to gain the ability to use them later in a coordinated attack on government computers or critical infrastructure, the officials said. It was not clear whether that compromise was part of the same campaign.