Google Cybersecurity Expert Links Russian Hackers to New Website Leaks Related to Brexit

A Google cybersecurity official and former UK foreign intelligence chief said a new website has published leaked emails from several prominent Brexit supporters linked to Russian hackers.

The site – titled “Very English Coop d’Etat” – says it has published private emails from former British spy chief Richard Dearlove, leading Brexit campaigner Gisela Stewart, pro-Brexit historian Robert Tombs, and other divorce advocates. Britain from the European Union, which was completed in January 2020.

The site claims they are part of a group of hardline pro-Brexit figures who secretly launched the decisions in the UK.

Reuters could not immediately verify the authenticity of the emails, but two victims in the leak confirmed on Wednesday that they had been targeted by hackers and blamed the Russian government.

“I am well aware of a Russian operation against a Proton account that contained emails to and from,” Dearlove said, referring to the privacy-focused email service ProtonMail.

Dearlove, who led Britain’s foreign spy agency – known as MI6 – between 1999 and 2004, told Reuters that the leaked material should be treated with caution given “the context of the current crisis in relations with Russia”.

Tomps said in an email that he and his colleagues “are aware of this Russian disinformation based on illegal hacking.” He declined to comment. Stewart, who chaired the 2016 Brexit vote campaign, did not respond to emails.

Shane Huntley, director of Google’s Threat Analysis Group, told Reuters that English Coop is linked to what Alphabet Inc., owned by Cold River, a Russia-based hacking group, knows.

“We’re able to see that through the technical indicators,” Huntley said.

Huntley said the entire process – from attempts to hack Cold River to publicizing the leaks – had “clear technical links” between one another.

The Russian embassies in London and Washington did not respond to emails for comment.

The British Foreign Office, which deals with media inquiries about MI6, declined to comment. And Brexit supporters who were suspected of emails being posted on the website also did not respond to the emails.

© Thomson Reuters 2022

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