Russia targeting Ukraine, countries opposing war in cyberspace - UK spy chief

LONDON, March 31 (Reuters) - Russia has attempted to disrupt Ukraine’s government and military in cyberspace and is looking to digitally target countries that oppose its invasion, the head of Britain’s GCHQ spy service said.

Russia says it launched a “special military operation” to disarm its neighbour. Ukraine and Western countries say the invasion was an unprovoked war of aggression.

A separate conflict has played out online as Western sanctions have isolated much of Russia’s economy from world trade.

“We’ve seen sustained intent from Russia to disrupt Ukrainian government and military systems. We’ve seen what looks like some spillover of activity affecting surrounding countries,” Government Communications Headquarters (GCHQ) chief Jeremy Fleming said in a speech in Canberra on Wednesday.

“And we’ve certainly seen indications which suggests Russia’s cyber actors are looking for targets in the countries that oppose their actions.”

Russia has consistently denied accusations of mounting cyberattacks on Western targets. Its defence ministry did not immediately respond to a written request from Reuters for comment on Fleming’s remarks.

Fleming dismissed recent commentary which expressed surprise that Russians had not deployed a major cyberattack alongside their invasion, an analysis that he said “misses the point”.

But “that’s not to say that we haven’t seen cyber in this conflict. We have – and lots of it,” he added.

Dozens of Ukrainian and Russian websites have also been taken offline during the conflict by legions of “hacktivist” volunteer hackers on both sides.

Reporting by James Pearson; editing by John Stonestreet