Finger Pointing

US Indicts Russia for Some of the Biggest Cyberattacks in Recent History

It's the first time criminal charges have been made.

10. 19. 20 by Victor Tangermann
Victor Tangermann
Image by Victor Tangermann

US federal prosecutors have charged six Russian intelligence officers for being involved in several major cyberattacks, The Wall Street Journal reports.

Some of the cyberattacks in question had some serious outcomes, such as:

  • Causing Ukraine’s electric grid to shut down
  • Influencing France’s 2017 presidential elections, and
  • Disrupting the opening ceremony of the 2018 Winter Olympics in South Korea.

So: This isn’t just for optics. The indictment also places blame on the intelligence officers for being involved in the NotPetya operation in 2017, widely seen as the most devastating cyberattack in recent history.

But notably absent from the list? Interference in the 2016 — and 2020 — American elections.

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The indictment ties these cyberattacks directly with the GRU, Russia’s military intelligence. While it’s not the first time such a link has been drawn, it’s the first criminal indictment of its kind, with counts ranging from conspiracy to wire fraud.

“No country has weaponized its cyber capabilities as maliciously or irresponsibly as Russia, wantonly causing unprecedented damage to pursue small tactical advantages and to satisfy fits of spite,” Assistant Attorney General for National Security John Demers said during a press call, as quoted by WSJ.

Demers called the series of attacks “the most disruptive and destructive series of computer attacks ever attributed to a single group.”

It’s a damning accusation — federal prosecutors claim the cyberattacks against the 2018 Winter Olympics was retaliation for the Russian Olympic team being banned for doping. The incident “combined the emotional maturity of a petulant child with the hacking skills of a nation state,” according to Demers.

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“It was a vindictive attack,” John Hultquist, a director at cybersecurity firm FireEye told The New York Times. “There was no clear geopolitical reason to do that. And it impacted the entire international community.”

“No nation will recapture greatness while behaving in this way,” Demers said, pointing a finger at Russian president Vladimir Putin.

All six Russian intelligence officers have now been placed on the FBI’s most wanted list.

Russia has denied the allegations. It’s unlikely the officers will ever have to stand trial in the US, as The New York Times points out.

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READ MORE: U.S. Charges Six Russian Intelligence Officers With Hacking [The Wall Street Journal]

More on Russian hackers: FBI Reportedly Foils Russian Hack at Tesla Factory


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