Oct 28, 2019 - World

Fancy Bear strikes sports and anti-doping organizations

Billboard of winking Vladimir Putin next to a winking bear. They are winking different eyes.

Photo by Sean Gallup/Getty Images

Fancy Bear, a Russian espionage hacking group best known for the 2016 breaches of the Democratic National Committee, is trying to hack email accounts of sports and anti-doping groups, reports Microsoft.

The big picture: As Russia struggles with anti-doping rules, Fancy Bear's targeting of sports groups has become a near-annual event since 2016.

The new campaign began on Sept. 16, according to Microsoft, as new cheating allegations ramped up.

  • Fancy Bear attempted to breach the email accounts of 16 national and international sporting and anti-doping groups.
  • Most attacks failed, though some succeeded.

Background: Fancy Bear is a good example of cyber espionage for reasons of national vanity.

  • While the U.S. was preoccupied with the political hacks in 2016, Fancy Bear is believed to have spearheaded attacks against the World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA) in retaliation for a near-national ban of the Russian Olympic team. Russia had been caught systemically cheating on performance-enhancing drug tests.
  • U.S. intelligence agencies believe that Russia hacked the DNC in 2016 in part due to the WADA ban. Putin blamed the Obama administration for his athletes being caught.
  • Just as Russia interfaced with the public about the DNC hack using a cover persona ("Guccifer 2.0"), Russia interfaced with reporters about the WADA attacks as a Polish affiliate of the hacktivist group Annonymous.
  • During the 2018 Winter Olympics, Fancy Bear is believed to have launched a wide malware campaign dubbed "Olympic Destroyer," designed to pin blame on North Korea. It was a rare period when North Korea would be an unlikely target, as Pyongyang was making every effort to peacefully participate in the South Korean games.
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