Russian and Chinese spies repeatedly targeted the Czech state last year, the country’s intelligence service (BIS) said in its 2018 report published Tuesday, detailing cyber-attacks and disinformation.

The report comes just over a month after the BIS and Czech police announced they had busted a Russian espionage network operating through its Prague embassy, launching cyber-attacks on Czech and foreign targets.

Russia was probably behind an attack on the Czech foreign ministry’s non-classified computer network, said the BIS report, published on its website.

“The attackers tried to ensure permanent access to the affected system,” it said.

And a Chinese cyber-espionage group was probably behind an attack on the foreign ministry’s non-classified network using malware – harmful software – the BIS added.

It said that a third incident, a malware attack on the private email accounts of Czech soldiers, was carried out by the APT28 group, which the FBI links to the Russian government.

“The intelligence services of the Russian Federation and the People’s Republic of China carry out the most active and most aggressive activities,” said the BIS.

“Russian and Chinese intelligence activities affected the sectors of politics, diplomacy, espionage, economy and information struggle” in 2018, it added.

Russia had sought “to manipulate the decision-making process and individuals responsible for decision-making”, said the report. The staff of all Russian intelligence services were active on the Czech territory in 2018, it added.

China, meanwhile, was looking for potential agents among Czech citizens and the presence of its intelligence services was growing, said the BIS.

The BIS also singled out Russian disinformation campaigns and propaganda as a threat.

In September the NUKIB, the Czech agency battling cybercrime, said Russia and China posed the biggest threat to cybersecurity in the Czech Republic, an ex-communist country that joined NATO in 1999.

Already in its 2017 report, the NUKIB warned that Russian and Chinese diplomats had stepped up their spying activities on Czech soil.

This sparked criticism from the pro-Chinese, pro-Russian, anti-Muslim Czech President Milos Zeman, who called on the intelligence agency to look for Muslim terrorists on Czech territory instead.

In the 2018 report however, the BIS said it had not detected any direct risks posed by Islamic radicals or terrorists.

AFP