United States indicts Russian agents over alleged hacking of doping agency

Adjust Comment Print

The British government on Thursday accused Russia's GRU military intelligence agency of "reckless and indiscriminate cyberattacks", blaming it for everything from the hacking of top athletes' medical data to disruptions on the Kiev subway system to attacks on the email accounts of the Democratic National Committee.

'The International Community, including Russian Federation, has agreed that international law and norms of responsible state behaviour apply in cyberspace.

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 must stop its reckless pattern of behaviour, including the use of force against its neighbours, attempted interference in election processes, and widespread disinformation campaigns", NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg said in a statement after Britain and the Netherlands said they had evidence of Russian cyber attacks.

In some ways the GRU may consider being blamed for these attacks as a badge of pride, showing their technical prowess; pointing out that these attacks can also hurt Russian companies too may make them think a little harder next time.

Maria Zakharova, a spokesperson for the Russian Ministry of Foreign Affairs, told a news briefing that the accusations were the product of someone with a "rich imagination".

Equipment in the vehicle boot was pointed at the OPCW and was being used to intercept login details, Maj Gen Onno Eichelsheim from the Dutch MIVD intelligence service said. The suspects are all allegedly members of Unit 74455, a branch of GRU.

Russian military intelligence "is active here in the Netherlands ... where a lot of global organisations are" based, Major General Eichelsheim said. It is increasingly taking on high-profile, high-risk operations to damage Russia's enemies. Its structure, staff numbers and financing are Russian state secrets.The GRU traces its history back to the times of Ivan the awful, though it was founded as the Registration Directorate in 1918 after the Bolshevik Revolution. Vladimir Lenin insisted on its independence from other secret services.

The GRU, now officially known in Russian Federation by a shorter acronym GU, is also the agency Britain has blamed for sending two men to England to poison former GRU agent Sergei Skripal with a chemical weapon sprayed on his door. Russian Federation has denied any involvement in the plane's destruction.

Sergei Skripal and his daughter Yulia recovered from poisoning after lengthy stays in hospital.

The finger pointing comes amid increased tension between the United Kingdom and Russian Federation over the poisoning of Sergei Skripal in Salisbury, also blamed by the Brits on GRU operatives.

The team of four GRU officers travelling on official Russian passports entered the Netherlands on 10 April.

At the time, the OPCW was working to verify the identity of the substance used in the Salisbury attack.

The organisation was also examining an alleged chemical attack by Syria's Russian-backed military in Douma.

The NCSC linked the GRU with a number of hackers, including APT 28, Fancy Bear, Sofacy, Pawnstorm, Sednit, CyberCaliphate, Cyber Berkut, Voodoo Bear and BlackEnergy Actors.

"This pattern of behaviour demonstrates their desire to operate without regard to worldwide law or established norms and to do so with a feeling of impunity and without consequences", Hunt said.

Russian Federation must stop its reckless pattern of behaviour, including the use of force against its neighbours, attempted interference in election processes, and widespread disinformation campaigns. Australia, New Zealand and Canada were among other countries which issued strongly worded statements backing the findings of their allies.