Warning Russian hackers have infiltrated European air traffic control

Eurocontrol, the European air traffic control organisation, revealed on Thursday that pro-Russian hackers were conducting a cyber-attack on its website. Fears have developed that Moscow may intervene with crucial infrastructure in Europe as the cold conflict with the West escalates.

The hack began on April 19 but had little impact on air traffic control operations.

According to a Eurocontrol representative, the agency’s operational systems were safe and secure, although communication was disrupted both internally and internationally.

The attack disrupted the website and web availability, the Wall Street Journal reported on Thursday.

However, the agency has promised to continue communicating with its roughly 2,000 staff via commercial means.

Eurocontrol manages cross-border air traffic across European national airspace and provides air traffic control for civilian and military planes in select regions.

According to a new report by the European Cyber Conflict Research Initiative (ECCRI), Ukraine is facing an exceptional volume of cyber attacks linked to Russia.

The 40-page study, commissioned by the National Cyber Security Centre (NCSC), praises Ukraine’s ability to remain resilient in the face of Russian cyber threats, but warns that the response could create concerning precedents.

The study suggests that the threat posed by Russian-aligned cyber groups extends beyond Ukraine, with the UK and allies also targeted.

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It also raises concerns about a blurring of the line between combatants and civilians, asking what will happen to members of the IT Army once the war ends and warning that it has “skirted the boundaries of several important cyber norms.”

The report also suggests that it is becoming increasingly difficult to distinguish between cyber-criminal groups and political activists, as some groups claim to pursue “hacktivism” but seem more interested in financial gain than making political statements.

Paul Chichester, director of operations at the National Cyber Security Centre, said: “We are very grateful to ECCRI for this important and valuable analysis of the cyber dimensions of the Russia-Ukraine conflict to date.

“The report offers a range of helpful insights, not least around what Ukraine has taught us about the power of resilient systems in the face of sustained cyber-attacks.

“As we look to the future during our CyberUK conference, this is a timely contribution to the debate on what we can learn from the conflict, as well as the limits to our current understanding.”

Security Minister Tom Tugendhat said that the Government would assess the findings from the report and “learn the lessons” it offers.

“Putin’s illegal war isn’t just being fought on the ground. Ukraine’s protectors are also defending their country against unprecedented cyber attacks on a digital battlefield.

“This report has shone an important spotlight on a different kind of hostility which the Ukrainians have responded to with exceptional resilience and determination.”

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