DOJ Indicts 7 Russian Intelligence Officers in International Hacking Scheme

05 October, 2018, 19:02 | Author: Myra Gill
  • Logo for Russia's GRU intelligence agency

Tonight, the U.S. justice department charged seven suspected GRU officers.

"We are going to actually make it clear that where Russian Federation acts, we are going to be exposing that action", said British Defence Secretary Gavin Williamson, who branded Russia's actions as those of a "pariah state".

But Russian Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Maria Zakharova dismissed the new accusations on Thursday, calling them "big fantasies".

Britain and the Netherlands accused Russia of running a global campaign of cyber attacks to undermine democracies, including a thwarted attempt to hack into the world's top chemical weapons watchdog while it was analysing a Russian poison used to attack a spy.

A joint statement from British Prime Minister Theresa May and her Dutch counterpart Mark Rutte said the alleged plot demonstrated "the GRU's disregard for global values and rules that keep us all safe".

They hired a Citroen C3 vehicle on April 11 and were seen to be scouting the area close by, all the while they were being monitored by the Dutch intelligence services.

On April 13 they parked a vehicle carrying specialist hacking equipment outside the headquarters of the OPCW in the The Hague.

It was around this time investigations into the Skripals' novichok poisoning were taking place. Some of their mobile phones were also activated in Moscow near the agency's headquarters.

Dutch Defence Minister Ank Bijleveld said the attack was disrupted and four Russian intelligence officers were immediately expelled from the Netherlands.

A laptop infected with ransomware during a worldwide cyberattack in the Netherlands.

They had planned to travel on to a laboratory in Spiez, Switzerland used by the OPCW to analyze samples, he said.

If a victim didn't fall for their remote attacks (or, as the prosecutors noted, "accounts that were successfully compromised [that] did not have the necessary access privileges"), Morenets, Serebriakov, Sotnikov, and Minin allegedly set about accumulating frequent-flyer points.


Dutch authorities escorted four Russian intelligence officers out of the country hours after the vehicle they had rented was found parked near the OPCW's building in The Hague, its trunk full of gear for hacking WiFi networks.

This shows Moscow - and other European capitals - what can be done when they are targeted by what officials describe as malign Russian activities.

The OPCW confirmed it had suffered "increased cyber-related activities" since the beginning of the year and had "undertaken measures to mitigate them".

The National Cyber Security Centre (NCSC) has identified that a number of cyber actors widely known to have been conducting cyber attacks around the world are, in fact, the GRU.

While not directly related to the ongoing investigation into suspected Russian interference in the 2016 USA presidential election, John Demers, Assistant Attorney General for the DOJ's national security division, said during a press conference Thursday that three of the named defendants were previously charged in connection with that probe.

Demers said the operations dating back to 2014 "involved sophisticated, persistent and unauthorised access into the victims' computer networks".

The British ambassador to the Netherlands said men caught with spy gear outside OPCW, for example, were from the same GRU section (Unit 26165) accused by American investigators of having broken into the Democratic National Committee's email during the 2016 USA presidential election.

But British government sources said the NCSC has assessed with "high confidence" that the GRU was "almost certainly" behind the DNC hack that some Hillary Clinton supporters claimed helped tip the United States election in Donald Trump's favour.

A dozen hacking group code names were listed and said by the British to be "almost certainly" cover for the GRU: among them APT 28, Fancy Bear, Voodoo Bear, and CyberCaliphate - this last one previously linked to the so-called Islamic State group.

The West's coordinated response also saw North Atlantic Treaty Organisation chief Jens Stoltenberg warning Russia to halt its "reckless" behaviour and the European Union condemning "aggressive" Russian spying. "And that's what happened today", he told reporters in Saskatchewan. Britain blames the secretive military intelligence unit for the nerve agent attack in March on Skripal and his daughter, Yulia, in the English city of Salisbury.

"Western spy mania is gathering pace", a Russian foreign ministry representative told AFP.

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