Microsoft’s chief legal counsel, Brad Smith, said on Friday that the UK and six other countries – as well as the US – have been subject to a serious Russian hacking attack in recent weeks.

He said his firm had discovered that 40 of its customers, including government agencies, think tanks, NGOs and IT companies were “targeted more precisely and compromised” after the state-sponsored hackers gained initial access earlier this year.

Eighty percent of the victims were in the US, but the countries outside the US include Canada and Mexico in North America; Belgium, Spain and the United Kingdom in Europe; and Israel and the UAE in the Middle East.

He added: “It’s certain that the number and location of victims will keep growing.”

The attacks centred on an IT network management tool called Orion, Smith said.

According to UK press reports, Jeremy Fleming, the head of GCHQ, has said the UK spy agency was “working at pace” to understand the implications of the SolarWinds attacks for the British government and private companies.

FILE PHOTO: Putin during a press conference at the Kremlin in 2013 Microsoft says Russian hacking attack hit seven states