Russian intel officers indicted for hacking anti-doping agencies

05 Octobre, 2018, 05:58 | Auteur: Anatole Charbonneau

The U.S. Justice Department on Thursday indicted seven agents of Russia's GRU military intelligence agency as part of a joint crackdown with allies Britain and the Netherlands on a series of major hacking plots attributed to Moscow.

An indictment announced in Washington says Russia's military intelligence agency, known as the GRU, targeted the hacking victims because they had publicly supported a ban on Russian athletes in global sports competitions and because they had condemned Russia's state-sponsored athlete doping program.

Russia has been accused of attempting to hack the UN's Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW) while it was investigating the poisoning of former Russian spy Sergei Skripal.

Three of the defendants were also charged in the hacking of U.S. persons involved in the 2016 election, Assistant Attorney General for the National Security Division John Demers said during a news conference, but the current indictment does not arise out of special counsel Robert Mueller's work.

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.

"These acts form part of a broader pattern of activities by the Russian government that lie well outside the bounds of appropriate behaviour, demonstrate a disregard for worldwide law and undermine the rules-based worldwide order", said Global Affairs Canada in a statement.

In addition to anti-doping agencies, the GRU targeted others, including the Westinghouse Electric Corporation, a nuclear energy company in Pennsylvania.

And now, the United Kingdom and the Dutch governments have revealed a huge amount of new intelligence about how the GRU has been operating across the world, namely its attempts to hack the OPCW chemical weapons inspectors' headquarters in the Hague, the computers of the Foreign Office in London and the work of the Porton Down military laboratories in Wiltshire.

They were caught trying hack into the Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons' WiFi network by parking outside its headquarters with a cache of high-tech equipment inside the boot.

Four agents from the GRU military intelligence service were ejected from the Netherlands immediately after the attempted breach was intercepted on April 13 this year, major-general Onno Eichelsheim, director of the military intelligence service MIVD, told a press conference in The Hague.

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She noted that the U.S. Department of Justice is expected to issue indictments of suspected Russian spies later on Thursday, in part due to information gleaned from the Dutch operation.

This version removes the incorrect reference to the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons as a United Nations organization.

Peter Wilson, the British ambassador to the OPCW, said the laptops seized by the Dutch had been used in a succession of countries, including Brazil, Switzerland and Malaysia.

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

UK's National Cyber Security Centre (NCSC) said Russian military intelligence (GRU) used a network of hackers to undermine administrations.

It came as Britain continues to investigate Russian Federation for what Downing Street said was its poisoning of ex-spy Sergei Skripal in Salisbury in March.

The Russian Foreign Ministry on October 4 described the accusations as "fantasy", as British Defense Secretary Gavin Williamson condemned Russia as a "pariah state" whose "reckless and indiscriminate" attacks had left it isolated in the global community.

Dutch and British officials have named four Russians they say are agents in a GRU intelligence cyber warfare team.

It also concluded that the GRU was behind hacks and leaks of U.S. Democratic National Committee e-mails that embarrassed President Donald Trump's opponent Hillary Clinton in the weeks before the 2016 election, among other high-profile and damaging attacks.

Williamson said: "This is not the actions of a great power".

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