Hackers have penetrated the computer systems of the UK’s foreign ministry and taken hundreds of files detailing the country’s controversial propaganda programmes in war-torn Syria.
In a security breach of enormous proportions, the hackers appear to have deliberately targeted files that set out the financial and operational relationships between the Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office (FCDO) and a network of private-sector contractors that have been covertly running media platforms in Syria throughout the nine-year civil war.
Middle East Eye understands that between 200 and 300 highly sensitive documents are thought to have been acquired by the hackers.
Some of the documents have already been posted on the internet, and foreign office ministers and officials are bracing themselves for the possible appearance of more over the coming weeks.
While the hackers are not thought to have yet been identified, the sophistication of the cyber-attack has raised concerns at the FCDO that a state actor could have been responsible, with suspicion focusing on Russia.
In 2018, the UK foreign ministry said that Russian intelligence officers had attempted to hack into its computer systems.
The FCDO is refusing to comment on the hacking that led to the exposure of the Syrian propaganda material.
In a statement, the ministry said: “The UK has been clear in our support for elements of the moderate opposition in Syria to stand up to both the tyranny of the Assad regime and the brutal ideology of Daesh.”