National Crime Agency opens investigation into suspected charity cyber attack

07 Mar 2019 News

The National Crime Agency (NCA) is investigating a suspected cyber attack against a government-backed charity set up to counter misinformation from the Russian state.

According to the Institute for Statecraft’s website, from which all content has been temporarily removed, data has been stolen from the charity and its programme, the Integrity Initiative.

Chris Donnelly, a former senior Ministry of Defence civil servant who co-founded the Institute for Statecraft, told Sky News that it is likely Russia’s military intelligence service, the GRU, is responsible, after it was implicated in the Salisbury spy poisoning last year.

A message on the charity’s website says: “Initial findings indicate that the theft was part of a campaign to undermine the work of the Integrity Initiative in researching, publicising and countering the threat to European democracies from disinformation and other forms of hybrid warfare.

“The website will be relaunched shortly. In the meantime, we expect to be able to publish an analysis of the hack and its significance in the near future.

“We are keen to trace both the source of the hack and the use to which our data - some genuine, some falsified - has been put.”

The NCA said in a statement: “We can confirm we are conducting a criminal investigation into a suspected cyber attack against the Institute for Statecraft and the subsequent release of information. As our investigation is ongoing, we cannot comment further at this time.”

Charity under investigation

Last December, the Scottish charity regulator, OSCR, opened an inquiry into the Institute for Statecraft after the Foreign Office claimed it was hacked by the Russian state.

The charity is registered in Fife, although it operates in London, and its Integrity Initiative programme has received more than £2m in Foreign Office funding over the past two years.

An OSCR spokesperson said: “Our inquiry is ongoing and we cannot comment any further at this time.”

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