U.S. and United Kingdom warn that Russian Federation has been hacking routers worldwide

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"This activity isn't always to steal information from the network, but at times used to facilitate other operations that the Russians can do against high value targets worldwide", said Rob Joyce, the White House cybersecurity coordinator, in a briefing to reporters.

United Kingdom and USA spies issued an unprecedented joint alert over Russian-sponsored cyber attacks on Monday, confirming "millions" of devices have been infected by "hostile" hackers. The alert also theorized that this type of compromise to hardware might even be used as a foundation for future attacks.

"We'll continue to follow the actions of our Russian adversaries and we'll bring every tool to bear against them in every corner of cyber space", said Howard Marshall, Deputy Assistant Director of the Cyber Division at the Federal Bureau of Investigation.

Compromised devices were used to look at data passing through them, added Mr Joyce.

There were reports that the Pentagon had detected a 2,000% increase in Russian-linked bots on social media in the hours after Saturday's strikes.

"For over twenty years, GCHQ has been tracking the key Russian cyber-attack groups and today's joint UK-US alert shows that the threat has not gone away".

US Homeland Security has directly condemned the Russian state for the attacks.

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What no-one is quite sure of is whether this creates a deterrent a bit like mutually assured nuclear destruction in the Cold War.

Martin said the attacks could be designed for spying, stealing intellectual property or possibly "prepositioning for use in times of heightened tension". "This isn't an isolated incident by any stretch and should be viewed in the totality of Russian malicious cyber activity".

The chief of Britain's National Cyber Security Centre (NCSC) based at GCHQ in Cheltenham, Glos, said Russian Federation was "our most capable hostile adversary in cyberspace" and that "dealing with their attacks is a major priority" for British and American spooks. It had also let attackers cripple firewalls and intrusion detection systems that organizations use to flag malicious internet traffic, according to the BBC.

The alert said the targets of the campaign were primarily "government and private-sector organizations, critical infrastructure providers, and the Internet Service Providers (ISPs) supporting these sectors".

And it contained detailed information about attack methods, the signs left when hardware has been compromised, and how networks change when they have been breached. Further intelligence about the attacks had been added by "multiple" cyber-security organisations and companies, he added.

"The UK government will continue to work with the United States, other worldwide allies and industry partners to expose Russia's unacceptable cyber behaviour, so they are held accountable for their actions", he commented.

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