SPAIN has warned that Russian hacking operations in Catalunya could intensify, according to a new report.

Published by Spanish Defence Ministry think tank, the Centre for Strategic and Defense Studies, the report claims Russian hacking operations are destabilising Spain as tensions continue to escalate in Catalunya.   

One of the main ways this destabilisation is carried out is through ‘bot’ accounts operated in Russia that support Catalunya’s independence.

“The Kremlin is taking advantage of the Catalan crisis to destabilize, employing a policy intended to generate confusion in the social media,” the report said.

Bot accounts have been traced to a ‘troll farm’ near St Petersburg and have helped push social media traffic by 2,000% in Catalunya since the referendum.

The company which runs it, Internet Research, owned by Evgeny Prigozhin, a close business associate of Russian president Vladimir Putin, has been linked to the boiler-room scheme.

“They are capable of putting out any type of news, commentary and opinion extremely quickly,” said Spanish cybersecurity expert Manuel Huerta.

But Russian foreign minister Sergei Lavrov has accused Spain of trying to ‘blame Russia for its internal weaknesses’.

The report comes after Spain’s defence ministry agreed with the assertion from political scientist Josep Basques that Russia was using Spain’s unrest to weaken NATO.