The Foreign Office was targeted by hackers with links to China and Russia
The Foreign Office was targeted in 2016 with hackers the Callisto Group also targeting military personnel, Government officials, think tanks and journalists in Eastern Europe and the South Caucasus.
Callisto’s hackers have been branded “highly motivated and well resourced” and are thought to be involved in intelligence gathering about foreign and security policy.
We do have indicators that the FCO were targeted by the Callisto Group
Erka Koivunen, chief information security officer at F-Secure said: “We do not have enough data to determine what exactly the Callisto Group were doing with the FCO, or whether any activity concerning them was successfully executed.
“However, we do have indicators that the FCO were targeted by the Callisto Group.”
The Government faces tens of thousands of cyber attacks every month and is aware of several established, capable state and state-sponsored groups seeking to penetrate UK networks.
The Foreign Office was targeted in 2016
F-Secure was unable to determine if the Callisto attack was successful with a source telling the BBC the most sensitive Foreign Office information is not stored on the systems targeted by the hackers.
The Finnish based cyber security firm suggested the attack was a “spear-phishing” campaign which attests to fool people into handing over their username and password over email.
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In a report on Callisto's activities, F-Secure said that in October 2015 the group used "phishing" techniques – sending emails purporting to come from Google suggesting that their Gmail accounts were about to be closed – to harvest security credentials.
Callisto’s hackers have been branded “highly motivated and well resourced”
The National Cyber Security Centre said emails are the main paths for most attacks
“Spear phishing" emails with malicious attachments – appearing to be from people known to the recipient – were sent in “highly targeted” attacks aimed at government officials, military targets, think tanks and journalists in early 2016.
The report said: “While the targeting would suggest that the main benefactor of the Callisto Group's activity is a nation state with specific interest in the Eastern Europe and South Caucasus regions, the link to infrastructure used for the sale of controlled substances hints at the involvement of a criminal element.”
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The “active cyber defence” (ACD) programme developed by the Government is aimed at blocking attacks before they reach their intended recipient.
A National Cyber Security Centre spokesman said: “The first duty of Government is to safeguard the nation and as the technical authority on cyber security, the NCSC is delivering ground breaking innovations to make the UK the toughest online target in the world.
“Emails are the main path for most attacks and usually rely on an abuse of trust by spoofing well-known brands. The Government's ACD programme is developing services to block, prevent and neutralise attacks before they reach inboxes.
“These measures are being trialled on government systems to prove effectiveness before we ask industry to implement them.”