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Russian spies accused of cyber attacks in UK, Netherlands; US levels charges against 7 agents

The US justice department accused the seven Russians of hacking attempts against anti-sports doping groups, the international soccer governing body and an anti-chemical weapons group, with the aim of disrupting efforts to investigate Russian activities.

world Updated: Oct 05, 2018 09:40 IST
Agencies
Agencies
Russia,spy,agent
Dutch and British officials present evidence of the Russian cyber attack in The Hague. (AFP)

Russian spies were on Thursday accused of involvement in a series of cyber attacks in the Netherlands, the UK and Malaysia, with the US levelling charges against seven Russian agents.

The US justice department accused the seven Russians of hacking attempts against anti-sports doping groups, the international soccer governing body and an anti-chemical weapons group, with the aim of disrupting efforts to investigate Russian activities.

The hackers also sought access to systems operated by Westinghouse Electric Corp, whose designs are the basis of about half the world’s operating nuclear reactors, according to an indictment unsealed in a federal court in Pennsylvania.

The US outlined hacks from 2014 to May that were carried out by Russians aligned with the military intelligence agency GRU. Hours earlier, the British and Dutch governments said they had foiled a Russian military intelligence operation involving some of the same Russians.

The Dutch government said it worked with British officials to block a cyber attack by Russian agents targeting the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons’ (OPCW) headquarters in The Hague on April 13, weeks after the Novichok attack in Salisbury. The UN body was examining evidence of the nerve agent attack in the UK, also blamed on Russia.

The chief of Dutch military intelligence identified four Russians behind the alleged operation, who were travelling on diplomatic passports and were expelled after the plot was foiled.

Three hackers charged in the US — Ivan Yermakov, Dmitriy Badin and Artem Malyshev — had shown up in a previous US indictment. They were among a dozen Russians charged in July over hacks of Democratic officials’ emails as part of special counsel Robert Mueller’s probe into Russian election interference.

Dutch defence minister Ank Bijleveld said the Russian agents had also targeted the Netherlands-based investigation into the downing of Malaysian Airlines flight MH17 over Ukraine. British security officials also said Russian operatives had travelled to Malaysia to attempt to hack the probe into flight MH17, which investigators have said was shot down by a Russian missile, killing all 298 on board.

British Prime Minister Theresa May and her Dutch counterpart Mark Rutte said in a joint statement the hacking demonstrates “GRU’s disregard for the global values and rules than keep us all safe”. They added, “Our action today reinforces the clear message from the international community: We will uphold the rules-based international system, and defend international institutions from those that seek to do them harm.”

The US indictment accused the seven agents of identity theft and conspiracy to commit wire fraud and launder money. Among their goals was to retaliate against organisations that had exposed doping by Russian athletes.

First Published: Oct 05, 2018 08:18 IST

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