Oct 19, 2020 - Politics & Policy

U.S. charges Russian intelligence officers for cyberattacks beginning in 2015

Putin
Putin at an event celebrating the Russian military. Photo: Alexei Druzhinin\TASS via Getty Images

A federal grand jury has returned a 7-count indictment against six Russian military intelligence officers for major hacking operations targeting foreign elections, the Olympics and computer systems worldwide that resulted in nearly $1 billion in losses, the Justice Department announced Monday.

The big picture: The officers are members of the same GRU unit indicted by special counsel Robert Mueller for interference in the 2016 election. It's unlikely that they will ever face trial in the U.S.

Worth noting: One GRU officer charged in the Mueller investigation for hacking Democratic emails, Anatoliy Sergeyevich Kovalev, was also charged in Monday's indictment.

Details: The indictment accuses the hackers of ...

  • Unleashing destructive malware attacks on Ukraine's power grid in 2015 through 2016
  • Engaging in hack-and-leak efforts targeting the 2017 French elections
  • Infecting computers around the world in 2017 with destructive malware called NotPetya, which also affected U.S. hospitals
  • Targeting the PyeongChang Winter Olympics after Russian athletes were banned from participating under their country's flag in 2017 and 2018
  • Attempting to disrupt chemical weapons investigations into the poisoning of former Russian double agent Sergei Skripal on U.K. soil in 2018
  • Targeting Georgian companies and government entities in 2018 and 2019

What they're saying: "These are not acts of traditional spying against governments," U.S. Attorney for the Western District of Pennsylvania Scott Brady said at a press briefing. "Instead these are crimes committed by Russian government officials against real victims who suffered real harm."

  • FBI Deputy Director David Bowdich thanked Google, Cisco, Facebook and Twitter "for all stepping up and helping us with this investigation," adding: "This is more common that we work together with our private sector partners than ever before."

Go deeper: The missed cyber opportunity in the Senate Intel report on Russia

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