Russians charged with cyberattacks, including hacking into Olympics

PyeongChang Olympics
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WASHINGTON (AP) — The Justice Department announced charges Monday against Russian intelligence officers in a string of global cyberattacks that targeted a French presidential election, the 2018 PyeongChang Winter Olympics and American businesses.

The case implicates the same Kremlin unit that interfered in the 2016 U.S. elections, but is not related to the November vote.

The indictment accuses the six defendants, all said to be current and former officers in the Russian military intelligence agency known as the GRU, of hacks that prosecutors say were aimed at furthering the Kremlin’s geopolitical interests and in destabilizing or punishing perceived enemies.

The attacks in this case are “some of the most destructive, most costly, most egregious cyber attacks ever known,” said Scott Brady, the U.S. Attorney for the Western District of Pennsylvania, where the 50-page indictment was filed.

“Time and again, Russia has made it clear: They will not abide by accepted norms, and instead, they intend to continue their destructive, destabilizing cyber behavior,” said FBI Deputy Director David Bowdich.

It accuses the officers, for instance, of hacking into the PyeongChang Winter Games after Russia was punished by the International Olympic Committee for a vast doping conspiracy.

According to the indictment, the hackers conducted a malicious software attack during the Opening Ceremony that deleted data from thousands of computers related to the event and left them inoperable. Russia tried to blame it on North Korea, the officials said.

It also says the Tokyo 2020 Olympics were targeted. Those Olympics have been postponed until next year.

The Japanese government’s chief Cabinet secretary Katsunobu Kato declined to comment on specifics. “We cannot overlook malicious cyberattacks that could shake the foundation of democracy,” he said.

Tokyo 2020 in a statement said “no significant impact has been observed in our operations.” It said it has been taking “countermeasures” but declined to disclose them.

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