DOJ Charges Seven Russians in Massive Anti-Doping Cyberattacks

(CN) – The Justice Department on Thursday announced charges against seven Russian military intelligence officials for their role in a massive cyberattack aimed at U.S. and international organizations that exposed a Kremlin-sponsored doping conspiracy tied to Russian athletes.

The seven intelligence officials were indicted by a grand jury in the Western District of Pennsylvania and their charges included computer hacking, aggravated identity theft, money laundering and wire fraud, according to John Demers, assistant attorney general for national security.

The officers “publicized stolen information as part of an influence and disinformation campaign designed to undermine, retaliate against and otherwise delegitimize” the World Anti-Doping Agency’s exposure of Russian-state sponsored athlete doping programs, Demers said.

Demers emphasized that while three of the seven intelligence officers named Thursday were previously identified by the special counsel’s office for charges related to interference in the 2016 election, the charges announced Thursday morning were not brought by Robert Mueller.

In addition to the World Anti-Doping Agency, the hackers also targeted the U.S. Anti-Doping Agency, the Canadian Centre for Ethics in Sports and FIFA, the international organization which conducts oversight for soccer and other entities.

Roughly 250 athletes from 30 nations were victims of the attacks, Justice Department officials said.

The Westinghouse Electric Corporation in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania and the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons were also targeted. The latter organization is a Switzerland-based lab which is currently studying the nerve agent used in the failed assassination plot to kill former Russian spy Sergei Skripal and his daughter.

Demers said Thursday that the information obtained by the Russian military intelligence officials was published under the Fancy Bears hacking collective.

The indictment covers hacking activity which began in December 2014 and continued until at least May 2018, officials said.

In a statement Thursday, FBI director Christopher Wray condemned the hackers’ actions saying they were “damaging to innocent victims and the U.S. economy, as well as to world organizations.”

“Their actions extended beyond borders but so did the FBI’s investigation,” Wray said. “The FBI will not permit any government, group, individual to threaten our people, our country or our partners. We will work tirelessly to find them, stop them and bring them to justice.”

The Russian nationals named in the indictment are Aleksei Sergeyevich Morenets, Evgenii Mikhaylovich Serebriakov, Ivan Sergeyevich Yermakov, Artem Andreyevich Malyshev, and Dmitriy Sergeyevich Badin, Oleg Mikhaylovich Sotnikov and Alexey Valerevich Minin.

The intelligence officers used fake identities and proxy servers as they spearfished their victims, Demers said. They also distributed malware.

When online attempts to obtain the information didn’t work, several of the officers got offline and physically traveled to their targeted sites.

With “specialized equipment and the remote support of conspirators in Russia” several of the officials hacked computer networks through personal Wi-Fi connections as well as vulnerable hotel Wi-Fi networks.

Each indicted officials faces one count of conspiracy to commit computer fraud and abuse, which bears a maximum sentence of five years imprisonment. Each were charged with a single count of conspiracy to commit wire fraud and conspiracy to commit money laundering.

Those charges carry a maximum sentence of 20 years.

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