U.S. charges Russian hackers with sweeping campaign of cyberattacks

The United States has charged six Russian military officers with a “destructive,” global criminal cyber-campaign that included the worldwide distribution of destructive malware and attempts to undermine the former Soviet republics of Georgia and Ukraine.

Six current and former Russian military officers sought to disrupt through computer hacking the French election, the Winter Olympics and U.S. hospitals and businesses, according to a U.S. Justice Department indictment unsealed Monday.

The indictment accuses the defendants, all alleged officers in the Russian military agency known as the GRU, in hacks that prosecutors say were aimed at furthering the Kremlin’s geopolitical interests and as retribution against its perceived enemies.

The hacking campaign included other attacks that furthered Russia’s strategic interests, the U.S. charged, including spearphishing and mobile malware campaigns targeting athletes and other people involved in the 2018 Winter Olympics in PyeongChang, South Korea, from which Russian athletes were banned due to a doping scandal.

Those attacks culminated with malware that disrupted the Olympics’ opening ceremonies.

According to the indictment, the men also conducted widespread digital attacks on companies and government agencies in Georgia, the former Soviet republic where Russia has increasingly asserted itself since a short 2008 war.

The campaign also allegedly included the 2015 and 2016 breaches of Ukrainian energy utilities, which caused a series of blackouts and represented the first known instance of a cyberattack disrupting a power grid. Cyber experts have described Ukraine as Russia’s test bed for future cyberattacks on other adversaries.

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