USA charges seven Russian intelligence officers with hacking

Russian President Vladimir Putin right and Russian Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu

Russian President Vladimir Putin right and Russian Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu

The Justice department alleged one of the Russian intelligence officers performed reconnaissance of Westinghouse Electric Co's networks and personnel.

Russian Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Maria Zakharova dismissed the new accusations Thursday, calling them "big fantasies".

BBC security correspondent Gordon Correra says counterintelligence investigations - tracking another country's spies - are normally among the most secret, so some of Thursday's revelations are stunning.

And now, the United Kingdom and the Dutch governments have revealed a huge amount of new intelligence about how the GRU has been operating across the world, namely its attempts to hack the OPCW chemical weapons inspectors' headquarters in the Hague, the computers of the Foreign Office in London and the work of the Porton Down military laboratories in Wiltshire. They are accused of sophisticated cyberintrusions and the victims were anti-doping agencies and officials, sporting federations, and almost 250 athletes.

The rap sheet was lengthened today when it blamed the country for the BadRabbit ransomware attack of October 2017, the hack on anti-doping agency WADA and the hack and leak of documents against the Democratic National Committee during the U.S. presidential election campaign two years ago.

Four Russian intelligence officers were immediately expelled from the Netherlands, she said. All 298 people on board were killed.

What have the other countries said?

"State-sponsored hacking and disinformation campaigns pose serious threats to our security and to our open society", Attorney General Jeff Sessions said in a statement Thursday.

One official has been charged with wire fraud, while all seven have been charged with both hacking and money laundering.

In a joint statement from Theresa May and Dutch prime minister Mark Rutte said the spy agency had shown a "disregard for the global values and rules that keep us safe".

Russian Federation rejected the allegations on Thursday, calling it a "diabolical cocktail" of someone with a "rich imagination".

The EU has also denounced the alleged cyber-plots.

The United States Department of Justice has charged Russian military intelligence officers with worldwide hacking offences.

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What were the suspects doing in the Netherlands?

The four officers had entered the Netherlands on diplomatic passports, according to the Dutch defense ministry, which said the British intelligence service had worked with it to disrupt the operation.

"By launching disruptive operations that threaten life in target societies, they blur the line between war and peace", he added.

They chose to try and destroy smartphones following their mission and also took their rubbish with them out of the hotel rooms they stayed in, in an attempt not to leave any DNA traces, according to Dutch officials.

It also revealed that the agents had also made searches for the OPCW-affiliated Spiez laboratory in Switzerland - which the Swiss last month said had been targeted by Russian Federation.

They never made it.

The men were caught and expelled from the Netherlands.

They were named by the MIVD as hackers Alexei Morenetz and Yevgeny Serebriakov, and support agents Oleg Sotnikov and Alexei Minin.

The National Cyber Security Centre (NCSC) has identified that a number of cyber actors widely known to have been conducting cyber attacks around the world are, in fact, the GRU.

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 operation by Russia's GRU military intelligence allegedly targeted the Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons in The Hague in April.

What was on their computer?

Equipment found in the boot of the vehicle included an antenna pointed at the OPCW building and digital devices used to intercept login details.

Dutch Minister of Defence Ank Bijleveld and British Ambassador to the Netherlands Peter Wilson attend a news conference in The Hague, Netherlands, October 4, 2018. A group of global inspectors had determined that a Russian missile had shot the plane out of the sky.

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