Oliver Dowden, chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster
Oliver Dowden, chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster. Image: UK Prime Minister / Flickr / CC BY-NC-ND 2.0

UK says ‘Wagner-like cyber groups’ attacking critical infrastructure

The British government will warn on Wednesday that “emerging Wagner-like cyber groups are attempting to cause maximum damage to the UK's critical national infrastructure.”

In a speech at the CyberUK conference in Belfast, the chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster, Oliver Dowden, will announce that the U.K.’s National Cyber Security Centre has issued an official threat notice to infrastructure operators in the country.

Several hacking groups aligned with Russia have turned their focus towards the U.K. in the last few months, Dowden will disclose, according to an advanced version of the speech.

The attackers’ primary motivation is to “disrupt or destroy” their targets, Dowden plans to say. It is not clear how these groups are similar to the Wagner Group of mercenaries, which have been linked to numerous atrocities in Ukraine. Wagner is led by Evgeny Prighozin, a confidante of Russian President Vladimir Putin.

The hacking groups are “ideologically motivated, rather than financially motivated,” the cabinet minister will add, meaning they are less likely to show the same restraint as nation-state hackers.

“Disclosing this threat is not something we do lightly, but we believe it is necessary ... if we want these companies to understand the current risk they face, and take action to defend themselves and the country.”

Dowden, who is also the secretary of state for National Investment Security, will use his speech to highlight what the government says is “the UK's world-class cybersecurity,” referencing the country’s “National Cyber Strategy, new cyber sanctions regime, and National Cyber Force.”

In a significant move, Dowden will also state that the “the government needs to break through its own glass ceiling” when it comes to hiring cybersecurity talent.

The government was chided recently for posting a top cyber job at His Majesty’s Treasury with a salary of only £57,000 (about $70,000).

Dowden is expected to announce that he is looking at what more can be done to improve salaries for experts in the civil service.

“These are people protecting the systems and public services that millions of people across the country rely on every day, so we should want the very best people in charge of them. We must be competitive to stay ahead,” he will say.

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Alexander Martin

Alexander Martin

is the UK Editor for Recorded Future News. He was previously a technology reporter for Sky News and is also a fellow at the European Cyber Conflict Research Initiative.