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Hostile states and hackers are using the coronavirus outbreak to attack the UK for fraud and espionage, Dominic Raab has said.
Speaking at the Downing Street press conference, the foreign secretary warned of “dangerous” cyber criminals and said that, in some cases, “arms of state” were behind them.
The hackers have been targeting local government, healthcare bodies and pharmaceutical companies, he said, in attempts to steal data, intellectual property and spy on the UK.
Raab said the “vast majority” of nations were coming together to fight the virus, but added: “There will always be some who seek to exploit a crisis for their own criminal and hostile ends.
“We know that cyber criminals and other malicious groups are targeting individuals, businesses and other organisations by deploying Covid-19-related scams and phishing emails.
“And that includes groups that, in the cyber security world, are known as ‘advanced persistent threat groups’ – sophisticated networks of hackers who try to breach computer systems.
There will always be some who seek to exploit a crisis for their own criminal and hostile ends.Foreign secretary Dominic Raab
“We have clear evidence now that these criminal gangs are actively targeting national and international organisations which are responding to the Covid-19 pandemic, which I have to say makes them particularly dangerous and venal at this time.”
Raab said in some cases “state actors” were behind the attacks.
“There are various objectives and motivations that lie behind these attacks from fraud on one hand to espionage, but they tend to be designed to steal bulk personal data, intellectual property and wider information that supports those aims, and they’re with other state actors.”
The minister cautioned that the predatory behaviour will “continue to evolve” and advice will help targets better defend against cyber attacks from “hostile states” and “criminal gangs”.
The UK’s National Cyber Security Centre and the US Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency have issued a joint warning and advice, he added.
It came as the number of people who have died across the UK after contracting coronavirus rose by 693 in 24 hours, bringing the working total to 29,427.