Australian Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull says illegal conduct from Russia cannot be tolerated as the four Commonwealth members of the Five Eyes intelligence alliance met to demand action.
Russia’s attacks on the digital defences of United Kingdom, the United States and Australia prompted the meeting on the sidelines of the Commonwealth Heads of Government meeting in London.
“Whether it is a chemical attack in Syria, the use of a nerve agent on British soil, or the expanding cyber attacks across the internet … these must be resisted, they must be protected, they must be identified,” Mr Turnbull told the meeting in London on Thursday morning (AEST).
UK Prime Minister Theresa May said Russia has also been trying to distort the truth of what happened in chemical weapons attacks in Salisbury and in Syria.
“Its interference over the past year has included attacks on the public sector, media, telecommunications, and energy sectors,” Ms May said in a meeting with Australia, Canada and New Zealand, who together make up four of the Five Eyes participants.
“They’re using cyber as part of a wider effort to attack and undermine the international system.”
Mr Turnbull told reporters after the meeting that Russia engages in cyber attacks “extensively” and alluded to attempts to influence the 2016 US election.
“Covert activities likes the notpetya virus, which was accounted for and attributed to Russia, and of course the big disinformation campaigns … that are designed to use the facility of the internet to spread false information and influence political processes and elections.” he said.
It was this week revealed that Australian companies had been caught up in suspected Russian cyber attacks that affected “millions of machines” worldwide.
The US, Britain and Australia have alleged Russian government-backed hackers infected computer routers around the world in a cyber espionage campaign targeting government agencies, businesses and critical infrastructure operators.
In Australia, it was believed that hundreds of businesses were affected but no information was compromised.
“When we see malicious cyber activity, whether it be from the Kremlin or other malicious nation-state actors, we are going to push back,” White House cybersecurity coordinator Rob Joyce said.
Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said the four nations, who along with the United States make up the Five Eyes security alliance, stood in solidarity with the UK and its stand against Russia.
New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern said the four countries would work together on security and making sure the system of rules-based international law was maintained.