Russia says foreign spies plan cyber attack on banking system

Russia said on Friday it had uncovered a plot by foreign spy agencies to sow chaos in Russia`s banking system via a coordinated wave of cyber attacks and fake social media reports about banks going bust, according to Reuters.

Russia`s domestic intelligence agency, the Federal Security Service (FSB), said in a statement that the servers to be used in the alleged cyber attack were located in the Netherlands, and were registered to a Ukrainian web hosting company called BlazingFast, as reported by Reuters.

The attack was to have started on December 5, and its targets were a number of major national and provincial banks in several Russian cities, the statement said.

”It was planned that the cyber attack would be accompanied by a mass send-out of SMS messages and publications in social media of a provocative nature regarding a crisis in the Russian banking system, bankruptcies and license withdrawals,” said the statement.

”The FSB is carrying out the necessary measures to neutralize threats to Russia`s economic and information security,” it said.

The statement did not say which countries` intelligence agencies were behind the alleged plot.

Anton Onoprichuk, director of Kyiv-based BlazingFast, said neither the FSB nor any other intelligence agency had been in touch with his company. He told Reuters he was waiting for more information so the firm could investigate.

Asked if his servers could be used to mount a cyber attack he said: ”Technically it is possible. It is possible with any hosting company, where you rent a server. You can attack whatever (you want) from it and in 99 percent of cases it will become known only after the event.”

Russia is on high alert for foreign-inspired cyber attacks, especially since U.S. officials accused the Kremlin of being involved in hacks on Democratic Party emails during the U.S. presidential election.

U.S. Vice President Joe Biden said at the time that the United States would mount what he described as a ”proportional” response to Russia.

Since then, there have been a number of cyber attacks affecting Russian institutions, though it is unclear if they were linked to the row between Moscow and Washington.

In October, a network of Ukrainian hackers released a cache of emails obtained from the account of an aide to Vladislav Surkov, a Kremlin advisor dubbed ”the grey cardinal” because of his behind-the-scenes influence.

On November 11, Russian lenders Sberbank and Alfa Bank said they had been hit by cyber attacks.

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