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DOJ charges Russian GRU officers for hacks on athletes, anti-doping officials

A chemical weapons organization and US nuclear power plant were also targeted
By Rob Thubron
What just happened? It seems that Russia's cybercrimes stretch far beyond interfering with the 2016 US election: the DOJ has just charged seven Russian intelligence officers with offences that aren’t related to the Mueller investigation.

The US Department of Justice has charged officers from the Russian Main Intelligence Directorate (GRU) with hacking, wire fraud, identity theft, and money laundering. They are alleged to have hacked the private or medical information of 250 athletes from almost 30 countries, along with US and international anti-doping agencies.

The attacks were said to be retaliation after Russia’s athletes were banned from the 2018 Winter Olympics following accusations of a state-sponsored doping program. Their aim was to damage the reputation of the Olympic organizations and spread misinformation that other athletes were doping.

The hackers, who are part of the notorious Fancy Bear group, also targeted the Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons in the Hague, which was investigating the Novichok nerve agent used on Sergei Skripal and his daughter in the UK in March, along with an alleged chemical attack in Syria by Russian-backed government forces.

"The indictment alleges that defendants Yermakov, Malyshev, Badin, and unidentified conspirators, often using fictitious personas and proxy servers, researched victims, sent spearphishing emails, and compiled, used, and monitored malware command and control servers," wrote the Department of Justice.

The Russian officers also targeted Westinghouse nuclear power plant in Pennsylvania, though no additional details were revealed.

The DOJ statement followed allegations by the UK’s National Cyber Security Centre that the Russian military intelligence service was behind indiscriminate and reckless cyber attacks.

Interestingly, though not entirely surprisingly, three of the seven officials named by the DOJ were also named in the Mueller investigation.

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