The UK government has said the Russian military was directly behind the NotPetya ransomware attack – a malicious cyber attack which spread across Europe last summer.
According to the BBC, Defence Secretary Gavin Williamson said Russia had ripped up the rule book and that it was the UK’s duty to respond.
The Kremlin has denied involvement in the attack – which is thought to have costs businesses across the Continent over $1.2bn – and claimed some Russian companies were also targeted and their systems infected.
Anti-virus experts in Russia said approximately 2,000 attacks were launched and principally targeted Ukrainian government networks as well as financial and energy assets held in the country.
The conflict between Russia and Ukraine primarily stems from Moscow’s annexation of Crimea some four years ago.
Companies with apparent strong links with Ukraine suffered badly from the NotPetya attack. Danish delivery firm TNT, Reckitt Benckister and Maersk, a Danish shipping giant, were, according to the BBC, among the most affected.
Foreign Office minister Lord Ahmad of Wimbledon said the government’s decision to publicly identify the Kremlin as the culprit highlighted the fact that the UK will not tolerate “malicious cyber activity”.
He added: “The UK government judges that the Russian government, specifically the Russian military, was responsible for the destructive NotPetya cyber attack.”
“Its reckless release disrupted organisations across Europe costing hundreds of millions of pounds. The Kremlin has positioned Russia in direct opposition to the West yet it doesn’t have to be that way.
“We call upon Russia to be the responsible member of the international community it claims to be rather then secretly trying to undermine it.”
Williamson then went on to warn that the West had “entered a new era of warfare, witnessing a destructive and deadly mix of conventional military might and malicious cyber attacks”.
Williamson’s comments come after PM Theresa May said Russia’s Vladimir Putin had attempted to “sow discord” across the west, following reports of Russian meddling in the Brexit referendum, US elections and alleged involvement in the propagation of fake news.
The UK government has since asked social media giants such as Facebook to investigate claims about Russian interference. Both YouTube and Facebook have so far said that they failed to find evidence of interference by the Kremlin.