U.S. charges 7 Russians in hacking indictment; Britain blames GRU

By Nicholas Sakelaris
A sign in front of the Russian Embassy in Washington, D.C. Thursday, the Justice Department charged 7 Russians with crimes related to multiple hacking operations. File Photo by Pat Benic/UPI
A sign in front of the Russian Embassy in Washington, D.C. Thursday, the Justice Department charged 7 Russians with crimes related to multiple hacking operations. File Photo by Pat Benic/UPI | License Photo

Oct. 4 (UPI) -- The U.S. Department of Justice has filed charges against seven Russian intelligence officers for hacking various organizations to steal sensitive and embarrassing information, authorities said Thursday.

The charges filed Thursday include wire fraud, aggravated identity theft and conspiracy. Other targets include Westinghouse Electric Corp., a nuclear power company, the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons and a Swiss lab.


Asst. U.S. Attorney General John Demers said the seven suspects are in Russia and cannot be extradited.

"These are Russian military officers," Demers said at a news conference Thursday. "If we could get our hands on these folks some day, we would have no problem bringing them to justice. These defendants must be held accountable for their crimes."

Three of the defendants are also charged with hacking U.S. citizens in relation to the 2016 election, though officials said that doesn't appear related to the ongoing investigation by Special Counsel Robert Mueller that's looking for evidence of cooperation between Moscow and President Donald Trump's campaign.


Earlier Thursday, British intelligence said it's linked several cyberattacks, including meddling in the 2016 election, to the GRU, the Russian spy agency also accused in the novichok poisoning of former spy Sergei Skripal this year.

The National Cyber Security Centre said the GRU was behind attacks on Russian and Ukrainian companies, the U.S. Democratic Party and a small British TV network.

Demers declined to comment on whether there are additional hacking concerns with the upcoming U.S. mid-term elections.

The World Anti-Doping Agency was also hacked and athletes' data was published, officials said. That incident was linked to a group called Fancy Bear, a front for the GRU.

All the attacks were already linked to Russia but this is the first time Britain has linked them to the GRU, Moscow's primary military intelligence outfit. The United States had already linked the Russians to the 2016 hacking of the Democratic Party, in which emails and chats were posted online.

"The GRU's actions are reckless and indiscriminate: they try to undermine and interfere in elections in other countries; they are even prepared to damage Russian companies and Russian citizens," said Foreign Secretary Jeremy Hunt. "This pattern of behavior demonstrates their desire to operate without regard to international law or established norms and to do so with a feeling of impunity and without consequences."


Hunt said some of the hacking serves "no legitimate national security interest" for Russia.

They used illegal crypto currency such as Bitcoin to "further their conspiracies," Demers said.

Demers said Russia the hacking embarrassed Olympic athletes from the United States and other countries. He said it was retaliation for Russian athletes being banned from the Olympics.

The disclosure that athlete Bradley Wiggins received permission to take a banned substance before races to treat asthma sparked controversy in British cycling.

Russian Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Maria Zakharova called the accusations a "rich fantasy of our colleagues from Britain" that were "mixed in one perfume bottle. Maybe a Nina Ricci bottle. GRU, WADA, Kremlin hackers -- it's a diabolical perfume."

Zakharova's words mocked British authorities who said GRU agents smuggled novichok into Britain in a perfume bottle and poisoned former spy Sergei Skripal and his adult daughter in March. Russian President Vladimir Putin said Wednesday Skripal betrayed his country.

Investigative journalists said last month they'd learned the true identity of one of the Russian suspects accused in the poisoning. That report singled him out as a highly decorated Russian intelligence colonel.


Moscow has denied responsibility in the Skripal attack and said the two accused were merely tourists visiting Britain.

British Defense Minister Gavin Williamson called Russia a "pariah state" that conducts "reckless and indiscriminate" attacks that have isolated Moscow from the rest of the world.

Officials have previously said other cyber actors include CyberCaliphate, Pawnstorm, Voodoo Bear and Tsar Team. The fronts include Cyber Kerkut, BlackEnergy Actors, STRONTIUM and Sandworm.

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