Posted on May 27, 2022 at 8:27 AM
A new website that published leaked emails from supporters of Brexit has been linked to Russian hackers. The website, titled “Very English Coop d’Etat” published private emails from pro-Brexit historian Robert Tombs, leading Brexit campaigner Gisela Stuart, former British spymaster Richard Dearlove, and several other supporters of Britain’s exit from Europe.
A former head of UK foreign intelligence and Google cybersecurity official, Shane Huntley, stated that the website is from Russian-sponsored threat actors.
The contents of the website revealed that the listed persons are part of a group of top supporters of the Brexit that secretly took the major decisions leading to the British exit from Europe in January 2020.
Although the authenticity of all the emails has not been verified, reports reveal that two victims of the leak recently confirmed that they were targets of threat actors sponsored by the Russian government.
“I am well aware of a Russian operation against a Proton account which contained emails to and from me,” Richard Dearlove noted stated while commenting on the attack on his email account.
Dearlove was the head of the British intelligence agency, M16, from 1999 to 2004. He stated that the exposed materials and emails should not be taken with a pinch of salt, pointing out the impact it could cause with the present crisis with Russia.
The Website is linked to the Russian Threat Group “Cold River”
While commenting on the matter, Tomb noted that he was aware of a disinformation campaign currently going on, and purportedly coming from Russian-sponsored hackers. He claimed that the disinformation is based on illegal hacking, but declined to comment further on the situation.
Director of Google’s Threat Analytics Group, Shane Huntley, noted that the said website is connected to what the threat analysis team knew as “Cold River,” a Russian-sponsored hacking syndicate.” We’re able to see that through technical indicators,” he added. As of the time of writing, the Russian embassies in Washington and London have not returned emails seeking comment.
Britain’s Foreign Office also declined to comment, while some of the British officials whose emails were exposed by the website have not responded to emails seeking their comment.
It is still not known how the website obtained the emails and the website did not provide any hint regarding the source of the emails or who was behind the leak. However, the exposed message seemed to have been passed on through the popular email server ProtonMail, which declined to comment about the situation.
New Website Has Been Linked To Another Russian Hacking
A cybersecurity expert at Johns Hopkins University, Thomas Rid, stated that the way and manner the site leaked the emails suggested that it can be connected to a hack-and-leak operation attributed to Russian hackers.
He stated that there is a major similarity between the M.O. and the Guccifer 2 and DCLeaks. These are two of the websites that distributed leaked emails stolen from Democrats ahead of the 2016 US presidential election. Hopkins noted that the new website that exposed the email accounts of the Brexit supporters could be connected to those 2016 accounts. According to him, they look familiar in several ways, including their sloppiness.
The leaked messages have not been completely authenticated. But if verified, it would mark the second time in three years that Russian-backed threat actors have successfully stolen and published private emails of a senior British national security official.
Three years ago ahead before Britain’s election, a secret US-UK trade document was hacked and exposed online. The document was stolen from the email accounts of former trade minister Liam Fox.
At the time, former British foreign minister Dominic Raab stated that the hacking incident was an effort by Russia to destabilize the British election. However, a few days later, the Russian government vehemently denied the accusation.
The “English Coop” site stirred up some allegations surrounding the exit of Britain from Europe. One of such allegations was to accusing Dearlove of championing the Brexit hardliners to oust former British Prime Minister Theresa May, who initially struck an agreement with the European Union in 2019. The website alleged that Dearlove was responsible for the actions leading to the removal of Theresa and replacing her with Johnson, who took a stronger approach towards Brexit. However, Dearlove stated that the purpose of the email was to antagonize and cause mayhem amidst the current Russian crisis. He declined to make further comments on the matter.