Russian President Vladimir Putin at an Easter service in Moscow on April 8 (Picture: Getty)
It is feared hackers in Russia could be preparing for a cyber attack on UK computer networks in revenge for the targeted airstrikes against Assad’s chemical weapons programme by the UK, US and France this weekend.
Prime Minister Theresa May has faced backlash from politicians who believe she should have consulted Parliament before authorising the operation.
Parents who tied man who was 'trying to have sex with their daughter' could face charges
Many fear the strikes will prompt retaliation, with one military expert saying cyber warfare is now ‘highly likely’.
Vladimir Putin failed to carry out threats to shoot down missiles fired at Syria as the Kremlin announced the strikes damaged chances of achieving a political resolution in the seven-year Syria conflict.
Professor Michael Clarke, a counter-terrorism and defence expert, warns the result of Britain’s involvement could be ‘cyber warfare’ that would affect ‘everyone’.
Speaking to the Sunday Mirror, he said an attack could be imminent in the next two or three weeks.
‘I suspect Russia will choose not to respond in military terms. But cyber warfare is highly likely,’ he said.
Theresa May announcing the RAF missile attack on a military facility in Syria, as part of a coordinated joint action with the US and France (Picture: Getty)
‘It will be an attack on national infrastructure, not just upsetting city firms, but getting inside the transport system, or the health system, or air traffic control.
‘It could affect everyone.’
Ciaran Martin, director of the National Cyber Security Centre, has also revealed the threat of an attack has been ramped up to its highest level.
‘Cyber attack capabilities are an integral part of Russia’s national policy, of its way of asserting itself in the world,’ he said.
‘The NCSC will be on high alert and trying to do everything in its power to frustrate or prevent an attack.’
But other defence experts were less concerned about a retaliatory attack by Russia.
Damage caused by the airstrikes at the Syrian Scientific Research Center (Picture: AP)
Lord Dannatt, the former head of the British Army, said it was ‘wholly right’ that Syria was subject to sanctions from the UK, US and France following the ‘appalling’ use of chemical weapons by the Assad regime.
Writing in the Mail on Sunday, the retired Army officer, who was Chief of the General Staff from 2006 to 2009, said: ‘The Prime Minister deserves our congratulations for having the moral courage to do the right thing at the right time.
Woman giving CPR to doll goes viral for all the wrong reasons
‘Always seeking approval from Parliament is a recipe for inaction.’
While Lord West, former head of the Royal Navy, said some form of military action ‘had to be taken’ over the situation in Syria and said Syrian president Assad would be ‘stupid’ to consider deploying chemical weapons again.
‘Theresa May was right not to go to Parliament,’ he said in a column for the Sunday Mirror.
‘If she had evidence of a chemical attack that would have added extra complication.’
Hundreds of anti-war demonstrators gather on Whitehall outside Downing Street to oppose further military intervention against Syria on Aprril 13 (Picture: Rex/Shutterstock)
He believes Russia will not fire missiles and that Vladimir Putin will be happy to ‘allow this to fade away’.
But Mark Almond, director of the Crisis Research Institute at Oxford said he is not convinced the strikes will see no retaliation.
Writing in the Sunday Telegraph, Mr Almond said: ‘Bad relations could easily encourage a reckless Russian freebooter, prompted and paid by Iran, to try his luck getting revenge on the pockets of US and British forces operating in eastern Syria.
‘Britain is more exposed to potential revenge attacks, despite only four Tornados taking part in the strikes, because they flew from Akrotiri in Cyprus – so close to Syria and to Lebanon.’