United States charges Russian GRU officers with hacking athletes, nuclear power company


On Thursday, U.S. prosecutors announced criminal charges against seven Russian military intelligence officers for alleged hacking.

The allegations are part of an organised push-back against alleged Russian cyber-attacks around the world.

Russian officials portrayed the allegations as part of an anti-Russian campaign meant to entrench Moscow's reputation as an enemy.

"International law enforcement are collaborating on this", Flynn said, adding that a parallel investigation pertaining to Canadian victims is ongoing in Canada.

The charges of conspiracy to commit computer fraud and abuse and to commit wire fraud and money laundering came hours after Dutch authorities said they had disrupted an attempt by Russian intelligence agents to hack into the Hague-based Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons in April.

"The defendants believed they could use their anonymity to act with impunity in their own countries and on the territories of other sovereign nations to undermine global institutions and to distract from their government's own wrongdoing", Demers said.

John Demers, U.S. Assistant Attorney General for National Security, confirmed that known attack targets included the OPCW, sports bodies including Federation Internationale de Football Association and the World Anti-doping Agency (WADA), as well as U.S. nuclear energy company Westinghouse. Dutch authorities searched a rental vehicle belonging to the men and found laptops with incriminating web history, maps, phones, cash, and an antenna that they determined had been pointed at the OPCW.

"The defendants in this case should know that justice is very patient, its reach is long and its memory is even longer", he said. All 298 people on board were killed.

"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 global order", it read.

"It is yet another element of the anti-Russian campaign by the UK Government".

What have the other countries said?

Now, Seven Russian government operatives have been charged by the Federal Bureau of Investigation with hacking into the computer networks.

British government sources said they had has assessed with "high confidence" that the GRU was "almost certainly" behind the Democratic Party hack that some Hillary Clinton supporters claimed helped tip the U.S. election in Donald Trump's favour, as well as the WADA attack which resulted in the release of the medical files of global sports stars including tennis's Serena and Venus Williams and British cyclist Bradley Wiggins. The United States said Moscow must be made to pay the price for its actions.

The US Justice Department said the seven alleged GRU members indicted on Thursday had targeted not only the OPCW but also the US Democratic Party, world footballing body FIFA, the World Anti-Doping Agency, and US nuclear energy company Westinghouse.

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What were the suspects doing in the Netherlands?

GRU stands for the Main Intelligence Directorate, Russia's military intelligence agency which is one of Moscow's three spy agencies along with the FSB security service and the SVR foreign intelligence agency.

When the men were intercepted they tried to destroy one of the mobile phones they were carrying, Maj Gen Eichelsheim said. The same laptop was also used in Switzerland.

The men were caught and expelled from the Netherlands.

Dutch authorities released the Russian diplomatic passports of the four men identifying them as Oleg Sotnikov, Alexei Morenets, Alexei Minin and Yevgeny Serebryakov.

Officials said they were from the GRU's Unit 26165, which has also been known as APT 28. When they were caught, the agency was investigating a suspected Russian nerve agent attack on Sergei Skripal, a former Soviet spy who had defected to the United Kingdom, and his daughter.

The UK joined with the Netherlands in accusing Russian Federation of sending agents with wifi antennas to The Hague to try to hack into the Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW).

News of the Dutch operation came a day after Britain and Australia blamed the GRU for some of the biggest cyber attacks of recent years - including one on the Democratic National Committee during the 2016 USA presidential campaign.

What was on their computer?

The cyber-operation in Malaysia targeted the attorney general's office and Malaysian police as well as the investigation into MH17's shooting down, Ambassador Wilson said.

Russian Federation has consistently denied involvement in the events.

Canada confirmed Thursday it believes itself to have been targeted by Russian cyber attacks, citing breaches at its center for ethics in sports and at the Montreal-based World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA).

It has been a busy week for Russian military intelligence - and it's about to get busier.

"Normally we don't reveal this type of counter-intelligence operation".