Attempts to hack into the chemical weapons watchdog allegedly made by Russia show Moscow was responsible for the Salisbury novichok attack, a government minister has said.
On Thursday, Dutch authorities said they had disrupted a cyber operation conducted by Russia’s military spy service, targeting the Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW).
Jeremy Wright, Secretary of State for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport, says the allegations reveal the world is “waking up” to Russian aggression.
The attacks occurred at the time the OPCW was working to verify the UK’s analysis of the chemical weapon used to poison ex-Russian spy Sergei Skripal and his daughter Yulia in Salisbury.
The organisation was also due to conduct analysis of a chemical weapons attack in Douma, Syria, in April.
Mr Wright told Sky’s Sophy Ridge on Sunday: “One of the things that we’ve tried to get across, in response to what happened in Salisbury, is that this is a problem the whole world needs to wake up to.
“What we’ve seen in the Netherlands just this week is that the Russians are prepared to try… and influence the investigations of the Organisations for the Prohibition for Chemical Weapons.
“They wouldn’t be doing that if they didn’t have some responsibility for what happened in Salisbury.
“So, the whole world is waking up to this challenge, not just the UK. But the UK’s at the forefront of dealing with the cyber challenge.”
He said the role taken on by his department is shifting so that it will increasingly be forced to tackle both cyber security and the information war being waged by countries like Russia.
He said the only effective response was for British people to become more “sceptical” about what they see and read.
He said: “The whole broad agenda of fake news is one that I have to focus on, because it’s partly about misinformation… things that are just frankly wrong… it’s partly about disinformation, which is deliberately putting up information on the internet, either from another nation or organisation, to deliberately try to mislead us.
“Frankly we all need to be a bit more sceptical about what we read on the internet, what we see and where it might be coming from.”
Asked whether Russia was the worst offender, he added: “It’s one of the worst offenders. No question. And we’ve seen evidence of this.
“We need to get smarter in our own defence.
“We can never be specific because we don’t always want to disclose the methods we’ve used.
“There’s no doubt in my mind that there’s been a number of (attacks), many of which we have been able to thwart, and so the work… is shifting, gradually, not just towards digital, but across the whole cyber sphere, to make sure we deal with the threats we actually face.”