US indicts seven Russian military intel agents in global hacking conspiracy

Main building of the OPCW in The Hague

Main building of the OPCW in The Hague

Maria Zakharova, a spokesperson for the Russian Ministry of Foreign Affairs, told a news briefing that the British accusations were the product of someone with a "rich imagination".

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

"This is not the actions of a great power; this is the actions of a pariah state", British Defence Secretary Gavin Williamson said during a visit to Brussels.

The Dutch authorities released CCTV imagery of the four men arriving at Schipol Airport as well photographs of their passports.

That organisation is tasked with probing the use of chemical weapons in Syria and the March 2018 poisoning of a former Russian military intelligence officer in the United Kingdom.

Hours later Thursday morning, Dutch defence officials broadcast photos and a timeline of GRU agents' botched attempt to break into the Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons using Wi-Fi hacking equipment hidden in the back of a sedan.

The United States on Thursday charged seven Russian intelligence officers with conspiring to hack computers and steal data from the nuclear energy company Westinghouse Electric Co as well as anti-doping watchdogs, sporting federations and an global agency probing the use of chemical weapons.

Data from the laptop showed it was also present in the Swiss city of Lausanne where it was linked to the hacking of a laptop belonging to the World Anti-Doping Agency (Wada), which has exposed doping by Russian athletes.

He said the agents had planned to target an OPCW in laboratory in Switzerland too. They were expelled to Russian Federation.

They were named in them as Alekski Morenets, described as a cyber operator, Evgenii Serebriakov, also a cyber operator, Oleg Soktnikov, described as humint (human intelligence) support and Alexey Minin, also humint support. Reuters was not immediately able to contact them.

Appearing at the Dutch media conference, the UK ambassador to the Netherlands Peter Wilson also alleged that Russian Federation had targeted the UK Foreign Office and Porton Down Defense and Science Laboratory.

Meanwhile, the U.S. Justice Department Thursday indicted seven agents of Russia's GRU military intelligence agency as part of a joint crackdown with Britain and the Netherlands on a series of major hacking plots attributed to Russian Federation.

A British national security report released late on October 3 concludes that the Russian military intelligence agency, or GRU, is "a pernicious cyber-aggressor" that has used a network of hackers to spread discord and confusion across the world.

They said Australia wasn't significantly affected, but the cyber attacks caused economic damage and disrupted civilian infrastructure in other places. But the Dutch government was exposing the officers, she said, "since this will hamper any further attempts at global operations".

The Netherlands publicly identified the alleged Russian agents and said the operation was carried out by Russia's GRU military intelligence agency, Dutch officials said.

Skripal, his daughter and a police officer fell seriously ill; a woman later died after her partner found the poison in a discarded perfume bottle.

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.

Hunt said the hacking attempt at the OPCW was further proof of Moscow's role in the poisoning.

The four Russians allegedly involved in the OPCW attack were included in the list of seven men indicted by the US Justice Department. Moscow says he is a Russian parliamentary staff member and has demanded Oslo lift the "absurd charges".

Britain's National Cyber Security Centre (NCSC) and the Australian government pointed the blame directly at alleged GRU front operations such as Fancy Bear and APT 28.

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