Some of those targeted said they had been made aware of ‘Russian disinformation based on illegal hacking’
A website that published leaked emails from leading figures involved in Brexit has links to Russian hackers, according to Google.
The website – called “Very English Coop d’Etat” – claimed to have published emails from the former head of the MI6 Richard Dearlove, prominent Brexit campaigner Gisela Stuart, pro-Brexit historian Robert Toombs and several campaigners for the UK’s departure from the EU.
The wesbite has claimed to be part of a staunch pro-Brexit group secretly calling the shots in Britain.
But two victims of the leak on Wednesday confirmed they had been targeted by hackers and laid blame at the door of the Kremlin.
Mr Dearlove, who led MI6 between 1999 et 2004, a déclaré à Reuters: “I am well aware of a Russian operation against a Proton account which contained emails to and from me,” referring to the privacy-focused email service ProtonMail.
He said the leaked material should be treated with caution given “the context of the present crisis in relations with Russie".
MrToombs said in an email that he and his colleagues were “aware of this Russian disinformation based on illegal hacking”.
Gisela Stuart, who chaired the Vote Leave campaign in 2016, did not respond to requests for comment.
A Google cybersecurity official also said the wesbite had connections with Russia.
Shane Huntley, who directs Google’s Threat Analysis Group, told Reuters it was linked to a company known as “Cold River,” a Russia-based hacking group.
Il a dit: “We’re able to see that through technical indicators.”
Mr Huntley said that the entire operation “from Cold River’s hacking attempts to publicizing the leaks”had “clear technical links” between one another.
L'indépendant approached the Foreign, Bureau du Commonwealth et du développement (FCDO), which handles media inquiries on behalf of MI6, but a spokesperson said they had nothing to add.
It is not known exactly how the messages were obtained by the people behind the website, but the leaked emails mainly appear to have been exchanged using ProtonMail, Reuters reports.
Thomas Rid, a cybersecurity expert at Johns Hopkins University, said the site was reminiscent of past hack-and-leak operations typical of Russian hackers.
Referring to two sites that leaked emails from Democrats in the lead up to the 2016 US presidential election, il a dit: “What jumps out at me is how similar the M.O. is to Guccifer 2 and DCLeaks.”
“It looks very familiar in some ways, including the sloppiness.”
Should the leaked emails be authentic, it would be the second time in three years that suspected Moscow spies have stolen private emails from a senior UK security official and published them online.
Reuters previously reported that a number of classified Britain-US trade documens were leaked in the run up to the UK general election in 2019 after they were stolen from the email account of former trade minister Liam Fox.
The source of the leaks were never confirmed by UK officials, but former foreign minister Dominic Raab described it as effort by the Kremlin to interfere in the election, a charge that Moscow denied.