Vladimir Putin, the bear-riding Bond villain, is listening into your inane conversations about picking up milk from the shop or who is shagging who in the office… or so the mainstream media would have you believe.
According to sections of the British press – who, let's be honest, don't often get carried away like this – are insistent that Russia is about to launch a full-scale cyberattack on the United Kingdom… or they already have, depending on who you ask. And all because the UK, USA and France launched a missile attack against the Syrian Bashar Assad regime.
If you ask the Express, "Russia is 'SPYING' on THOUSANDS of UK households in 'RETALIATION to Syria strikes." Apparently, your home could become a part of a Russian "botnet," used to launch large scale cyber attacks. No explanation was provided as to what a botnet is though… but when you're whipping the British population into a fearful frenzy, who has time to explain?
The sometimes-responsible Telegraph also jumped on the bandwagon. According to the paper, Russia will soon hack Britain's "critical infrastructure," including energy networks, the emergency services and the armed forces. They've cited sources from the GCHQ and the FBI… of course, however, they're unnamed sources. It's not like anyone would want to fact-check such claims, after all.
A chap named Ciaran Martin is quoted in the Telegraph, the Sun, the Mirror, the Daily Express, and Reuters. Martin is the chief executive of the National Cyber Security Centre, which is part of the GCHQ which does a fair bit of internet spying itself. He says"Russia is our most capable hostile adversary in cyberspace." So move over, pimply teen that hacked into a CIA chief's computer from his Leicestershire home. You've officially been ousted as the world's biggest cyber threat.
Martin told the Mirror that Russia has already been attacking UK cyber networks for a long time… And, apparently, "Britain has been tracking groups behind the attacks for more than a year," the paper says.
So, why, oh, why – if Russia has already been hacking into the homes of innocent Brits – has the UK government not done anything about it? In the very same article, the government puts us at ease. Kind of. Well, not really.
"This is yet another example of Russia's disregard for international norms and global order – this time through a campaign of cyber espionage and aggression, which attempts to disrupt governments and de-stabilize business," a government spokesperson told the Mirror. "The attribution of this malicious activity sends a clear message to Russia – we know what you are doing and you will not succeed." Seems like they're doing a good job so far – the Kremlin must be shaking in their boots.
The Sun can't even decide if Russia has attacked British computer networks or not. At 5.34pm on Wednesday, the Sun ran with the headline "ENEMY INSIDE THE GATES: Russian hackers have ALREADY launched 'malicious' cyberattacks on UK networks including home internet routers."
Apparently, the famously accurate Sun couldn't decide if Russia had attacked or not though – running a completely contradictory headline just five hours later: "SILENT ASSASSINS: Will there be a Russian cyberattack on the UK, what methods could be used and how would Britain respond?"
Now, if that doesn't give you faith in the accuracy of Murdoch's reporters, then we just don't know what will. Luckily – in case you were on the fence about the Russian hacking crisis, they ran some pretty little graphics to detail to the British public just how screwed both the Syrian and UK populations are.
The Independent is here to save the day with some handy hints on what we can do. Despite the mainstream media riling up the British public, the article is more of a piece on what Britain can do… which is apparently "escalate monitoring of sensitive and more exposed parts of their digital assets to pick up any threatening behavior, pre-emptively cut down on non-critical interfaces or functionality that could be exploited, and step up intelligence-gathering from wider sources to inform assessment of expected threats." Thrilling.
Thankfully, it tells us that Theresa May can strike back with a cyberattack of her own. So, what will the British press call this attack? MayNet? MayBot 2? Theres-attack? The possibilities are endless.
Think your friends would be interested? Share this story!