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Danish defence minister accuses Russia of cyber espionage

Government officials in Denmark believe they have been under attack from Russia-based hackers

A report by Denmark’s Centre for Cyber ​​Security (CFCS) reveals Danish authorities’ email accounts have been attacked by a foreign source for the past two years.

Although the report did not name a country, Danish defence minister Claus Hjort Frederiksen blamed Russia being behind the cyber attacks in an interview with Danish newspaper Berlingske.

“What’s happening is very controlled. It’s not small hacker groups doing it for the fun of it,” Frederiksen told the Copenhagen Post. “It’s connected to intelligence agencies or central elements in the Russian government, and holding them off is a constant struggle.”

According to the CFCS report (here in Danish), the hackers breached email accounts at the Danish Ministry of Defence and the Ministry of Foreign Affairs in several attacks in 2015 and 2016.

No classified information was compromised, but the centre – which is part of the Danish Defence Intelligence Service – said the accessed information can still pose a security threat as it can be used to attempt recruitment, blackmail or plan further espionage.

The report names cyber espionage group APT28, also known as “Fancy Bear” and “Pawn Storm” among other aliases, as the likely culprit behind the attacks. Several security experts believe the group is linked to the Russian government and it is suspected of several high profile attacks, including the Democratic National Committee (DNC) email hack and the World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA) data leak in 2016.

The common methods used by the group include spear phishing and creating fake websites to trick targets into giving away their login and password information, which is then used to access their email accounts.

The CFCS, which is part of the Danish Defence Intelligence Service, said it is very likely APT28 has managed to access a number of email accounts in the two Danish ministries.

Thomas Lund-Sørensen, head of CFCS, said they are dealing with a persistent player that has the capabilities and resources for long-term cyber attacks and is highly likely to attack again. The centre said cyber espionage against authorities and private companies poses a serious threat in Denmark.

According to the New York Times, the Russian government has denied the accusations with Kremlin spokesman Dmitri S. Peskov stating “Russia does not do hacking attacks” in a press briefing.

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