USA indicts seven Russian intel agents in hacking conspiracy

USA indicts seven Russian intel agents in hacking conspiracy

USA indicts seven Russian intel agents in hacking conspiracy

The Associated Press is reporting the U.S. Justice Department has charged seven Russian officers with hacking anti-doping agencies and other organizations, including Westinghouse.

The targets allegedly included a small UK TV station, the US Democratic National Committee and the World Anti-Doping Agency (Wada), as well as a Bad Rabbit ransomware attack which swept across Russia and Europe in October past year, affecting a Ukranian metro line, Odessa airport, a Russian central bank and two Russian media outlets.

The Dutch intelligence services held a press conference on Thursday revealing details of what they claim was a Russian operation to infiltrate the OPCW, as it investigated the attempt to poison a former Russian spy in the United Kingdom this year.

Three of the defendants were also charged in the hacking of USA 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.

Hours later Thursday morning, Dutch defence officials broadcast photos and a timeline of GRU agents' botched attempt to break into the Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons using Wi-Fi hacking equipment hidden in the back of a sedan.

In Ottawa, Andrew Leslie, parliamentary secretary to Foreign Affairs Minister Chrystia Freeland, said: "I'm told that the Federal Bureau of Investigation has charged seven Russian agents with involvement in this process and that the RCMP are also involved and assisting".

That organization is tasked with probing the use of chemical weapons in Syria and the March 2018 poisoning of a former Russian military intelligence officer in the United Kingdom.

Some of the most detailed accusations came from the Dutch authorities. It also ties together a series of norm-shattering spy operations that have straddled the physical world and the digital sphere.

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 USA 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.

Sergei Skripal (left), pictured in 2006, and his daughter Yulia Skripal after her recovery from the nerve agent poisoning.

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At the same time, Australian and British spies have now endorsed the American intelligence community's reported attribution of the catastrophic June 2017 cyberattack on Ukraine to the GRU.

According to a secret White House assessment recently cited by "Wired", the attack caused $10bn worth of damage worldwide.

MH17 was shot down on July 17, 2014, while flying over eastern Ukraine as it was heading from Amsterdam to Kuala Lumpur.

The Dutch government said it had summoned the Russian ambassador over the incident.

The announcement from the justice department's national security division on Thursday comes after Dutch officials said they had disrupted a Russian cyberattack on the global chemical weapons watchdog.

But the accusations deepen Moscow's isolation at a time when its diplomatic ties with the West have been downgraded over the poisoning of an ex-spy and while it is under US and European Union sanctions over actions in Ukraine.

In a joint statement, Theresa May and Dutch prime minister Mark Rutte condemned the "unacceptable cyber activities" of the GRU and vowed to work to uphold the "rules-based global system".

According to a report by British state broadcaster BBC, the motive for the cyber attacks on Malaysian authorities was over the multinational investigation into Russia's role in the downing of Malaysia Airlines Flight MH17. The OPCW was investigating the Skripal nerve agent poisoning, which Russian Federation denied, and Russian Federation was being blamed for the shooting down of MH17 over eastern Ukraine, where Ukrainian forces were fighting Russia-backed separatists at the time. Britain says the nerve agent was Novichok, produced in the Soviet Union, a finding later confirmed by the chemical weapons watchdog.

Four of the men are said to be part of a hacking operation, run by Kremlin spy agency GRU, that fell foul of Dutch intelligence.

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