Russian hackers accused of targeting United Nations chemical weapons watchdog, MH17 files

Friday, 05 Oct, 2018

The US Justice Department on Thursday charged seven Russian intelligence officers with hacking anti-doping agencies and other organizations hours after Western officials leveled new accusations against Moscow's secretive GRU military spy agency.

Russian Federation plotted a cyber-attack on the global chemical weapons watchdog but it was foiled by the Dutch security services, officials say.

And the United States charged seven Russian GRU officers for hacking and other crimes.

Moscow on Thursday rejected the accusations, saying they were unworthy and part of a disinformation campaign created to damage Russian interests.

The GRU was nearly certainly behind those attacks, Britain said, as well as attacks on Ukraine's Kyiv metro and Odessa airport, Russia's central bank, two Russian media outlets, and an unidentified small UK-based television station.

"Clearly there is evidence that very untoward behaviour by the Russians has been at play here, totally outside the norm of civilized behaviour among countries and we're standing with our allies... to call out that illicit behaviour when we see it", Goodale said.

London has also accused two of GRU's officers of poisoning former double-agent Sergei Skripal and his daughter in the British city of Salisbury in March, using a perfume bottle containing a powerful nerve agent.

Britain and the Netherlands have accused Russia of running a global campaign of cyber-attacks to undermine democracies, including a thwarted attempt to hack into the United Nations chemical weapons watchdog while it was analysing a Russian poison used to attack a spy.

He said: 'If anyone had any questions in their mind about Russian military involvement in the Salisbury attacks, this will put to rest those doubts because we have evidence of the Russian military launching a cyber-attack on the very global organisation in the Netherlands set up to investigate those novichok attacks.

British authorities confirmed that the same men had attempted to launch cyberattacks against the investigation into the crash of Malaysia Airlines flight MH17.

They then targeted computers at Porton Down in April, Britain's top military research facility, where experts were testing for the nerve agent.

When certain remote efforts failed to work, prosecutors detailed how the GRU hackers traveled in some instances using Russian Government-issued diplomatic passports in an attempt to gain access to Wi-Fi networks onsite.

They said the Russian military intelligence service could have only been conducting operations of such scale on Kremlin orders.

The OPCW is the world's foremost chemical weapons watchdog, and in June granted itself new powers to assign blame for attacks despite protests by Russian Federation.

"This attempt, to access the secure systems of an worldwide organisation working to rid the world of chemical weapons, demonstrates again the GRU's disregard for the global values and rules that keep us all safe", British Prime Minister Theresa May and Dutch counterpart Mark Rutte said in a joint statement.

Sergei Skripal and his daughter Yulia recovered from poisoning after lengthy stays in hospital.

US Secretary of Defence James Mattis speaks during a news conference after North Atlantic Treaty Organisation defence ministers meeting at the Alliance headquarters in Brussels, Belgium.

News of the Dutch operation came a day after Britain and Australia blamed the GRU for some of the biggest cyber attacks of recent years - including one on the Democratic National Committee during the 2016 U.S. presidential campaign.

Britain says the attack was carried out by GRU officers and nearly certainly approved "at a senior level of the Russian state".

The UK and the Dutch held a joint press conference with their defence minister and the British ambassador, the British and Dutch prime ministers issued a joint statement, and the North Atlantic Treaty Organisation secretary general also had a statement ready.

In a characteristically dramatic statement, British foreign secretary Jeremy Hunt said "the ability of people around the world to go about their daily lives free from interference, and even their ability to enjoy sport" was under threat due to Russian attacks.