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Beware the Russians: British Boogeyman Recipe to Making Strong Points

CC0 / / Cybercrime
Cybercrime - Sputnik International
Apparently, adding a tablespoon of "Russian threat" to any statement in Britain only enhances it. Almost a year since the WannaCry ransomware attack crippled UK's health service, a new report has urged the government to "get a grip" and patch the systemic cybersecurity holes in case of future offensives, pointing to the Skripal poisoning case.

"The NHS [National Health Service] was lucky. If the attack had not happened on a Friday afternoon in the summer and the kill switch to stop the virus spreading had not been found relatively quickly, then the disruption could have been much worse," said the Cyber-attack on the NHS report, published by the House of Commons Committee of Public Accounts on April 18.

WannaCry reduced the NHS temporarily to an operation run via pen and paper, threatening lives of patients in the process. The attack on May 12, 2017 triggered overwhelming disruption to British health services and almost 20,000 hospital appointments and operations had to be cancelled. Accident and emergency departments turned patients away because they were unable to treat them.

Although the report said the government was ill-prepared, it suggested that Department of Health and Social Care and NHS bodies "have learned lessons from WannaCry."

The document warned that the whole of British government is at risk of future attacks and referred to the poisoning of the former Russian spy Sergei Skripal and his daughter in Salisbury on March 4.

"The recent shocking use of a nerve agent to poison those on British soil has heightened concerns about the UK's ability to respond to international threats, and hammers home the risks from those hostile to the UK."

Citing the Skripal case in a seemingly unrelated report on effects of cybercrime echoes the most recent comments by the UK Foreign Minister. In a televised interview, Boris Johnson said that Russia could launch cyberattacks against critical UK infrastructure.

"You have to take every possible precaution, and when you look at what Russia has done, not just in this country, in Salisbury, attacks on TV stations, on the democratic processes, on critical national infrastructure — of course we have to be very, very cautious indeed," Johnson said.

© Sputnik / Alexey Filippov / Go to the mediabankRussian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov and British Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson
Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov and British Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson - Sputnik International
Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov and British Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson

His statement was criticized by the representative of the Russian embassy to the United Kingdom, who called Johnson's speculations "a reckless, provocative and unfounded policy against Russia."

"Russia is not planning to conduct any cyberattacks against the United Kingdom. We expect the British Government to declare the same," the spokesperson said.

READ MORE: 'Reckless Policy': Russian Embassy Slams UK Growing Russian Cyberthreat Claims

London is yet to present evidence to justify its accusations against Russia over the Skripals' poisoning, despite already taking measure against Moscow via expulsion of Russian diplomats from the UK.

In his interview with the BBC on April 16, Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said that Russia loses the "lasts remnants of trust" with its "Western friends who prefer to operate on the basis of very weird logic — proof is in the punishment."

"They punish first, like they did in Salisbury. Then they wait for Scotland Yard to finalize the investigation. They punish first in Douma, Syria and then they wait for the inspectors of OPCW to visit the place and to inspect," Mr. Lavrov said.

Russia's top diplomat also said that comparing to the period of Cold War, the current situation is worse "because during the Cold War there were channels of communication and there was no obsession with Russophobia."

Only a few months ago Britain's new Defense Minister Gavin Williamson — who would later say in an official speech that "Russia should go away and shut up" — also warned Britain against the perceived Russian threat, however providing no evidence for his allegations.

In an attempt to align himself with more experienced counterparts in the Defense Department, the freshly nominated Mr. Williamson, with no military background, warned of a Russian attack on British infrastructure that could kill "thousands."

READ MORE: Why So Hyperbolic? Reasons UK Defense Sec Said What He Said About Russia

Whether the reference to the Skripal case by the House of Commons report was a similar tool to stress the government and NHS bodies into following the recommendation of "making cybersecurity a priority," it appears adding a pinch of the "Russian threat" into the mix helps making a point.

Since the WannaCry attack hit Britain in 2017, additional £196 million have been allocated for cyber-security up to 2020 and only a week ago UK Home Secretary Amber Rudd has announced a multi-million pound commitment to enhance the UK's specialist cyber capabilities.

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