DOJ Indicts 7 Russian Intelligence Officers in International Hacking Scheme

Logo for Russia's GRU intelligence agency

The allegations by the British came as Dutch officials claimed at a news conference that the GRU tried to hack the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons in April before authorities disrupted it.

Prosecutors say the Russians also targeted a Pennsylvania-based nuclear energy company and an global organisation that was investigating chemical weapons in Syria and the poisoning of a former GRU officer.

The Dutch also accused the Russian agency of trying to hack into the investigation of the 2014 downing of a Malaysian Airlines flight over eastern Ukraine that killed all 298 people on board.

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

According to the USA government, the defendants initially tried to use spear-phishing emails and other remote malware attacks to compromise officials at WADA and related organizations.

The World Anti-Doping Agency was also hacked and athletes' data was published, officials said.

One of these saw officers deployed to Rio de Janeiro, Brazil in August 2016, in an intrusion that resulted in an International Olympic Committee official's credentials being captured and used to gain unauthorised access to accounts. Dutch investigators said the snoopers nabbed outside the OPCW also appear to have logged into the Wi-Fi networks near the World Anti-Doping Agency and the Malaysian hotels where crash investigators had gathered to investigate the shooting down of passenger flight MH17.

Russian agents attempted to breach the personal information of approximately 250 athletes from 30 countries who supported the ban on Russian athletes or condemned the country's doping program, officials said, as well as the systems of U.S. and worldwide anti-doping agencies, deeming it "a lengthy and wide-ranging conspiracy to hack into private computes and networks around the world". This compromised network was used to steal credentials and compromise members of the Canadian Centre for Ethics in Sport.

The GRU is accused of a catastrophic attack in June 2017 on Ukraine using malicious software that briefly knocked out cash machines, gas stations, pharmacies and hospitals.

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It comes after the United Kingdom government accused Russian Federation of executing four prominent cyber attacks between 2015 and 2017, with the National Cyber Security Centre saying it was "almost certain" Russia's intelligence services were behind the attacks.

Dutch authorities showed photos including one of a gray rented Citroen with its trunk full of hacking equipment.

The chemical weapons watchdog had confirmed that Skripal was poisoned by the Soviet-produced nerve agent known as Novichok. "We intercepted it and expelled the four men from the country".

Russia has accused Canada of joining an "international anti-Russian witch hunt", a charge that represents a new fray in diplomatic relations between the countries.

Moscow has denied involvement in the downing of the MH17 and on Thursday Russian foreign ministry spokeswoman Maria Zakharova dismissed the cyber spying allegations as "big fantasies".

Commentators say the revelations suggest that Russian spies have been surprisingly amateur in their operations - or that Moscow is becoming increasingly brazen in stepping up a hybrid cyber war on the West.

The Joint Investigation Team headed by the Dutch Ministry of Justice, eventually indicated the plane may have been down by pro-Russian rebels fighting against the Ukrainian government, which Moscow has denied.

"We will work tirelessly to find them, stop them, and bring them to justice", he added.

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