US indicts 7 Russian spies over hacking linked to Olympics scandal

WASHINGTON • The US Justice Department yesterday announced the indictment of seven Russian military spies on cyber-hacking charges linked to the leaking of Olympic athletes' drug-test data in an alleged effort to undermine international efforts to expose Russian doping.

Four of the GRU officers were also charged with targeting organisations probing Russia's alleged use of chemical weapons, including the poisoning of a former Russian spy in Britain.

Three were indicted in July for allegedly conspiring to interfere in the 2016 presidential election.

The indictment further exposes Moscow's ongoing, widespread campaign to discredit Western democracy and international institutions through disinformation and other measures.

In the summer of 2016, the GRU hacked drug-test results from the World Anti-Doping Agency and posted confidential information about US Olympic athletes, including tennis stars Serena and Venus Williams and gold medal gymnast Simone Biles. WADA publicly called out the Russian military agency for the information operation.

Now, the US government is seeking to apply the law to the cyber spies.

"We want the hundreds of victims of these Russian hackers to know that we will do everything we can to hold these criminals accountable for their crimes," said Mr Scott Brady, US Attorney for the Western District of Pennsylvania, where the grand jury indicted the Russians.

The GRU campaign ran from December 2014 until at least May this year, targeting US persons, corporations and international organisations based on their strategic interest to the Russian government, officials said.

In a separate statement, the US government on Wednesday warned that a hacking group widely known as cloudhopper, which Western cyber-security firms have linked to the Chinese government, has launched attacks on technology service providers in a campaign to steal data from their clients.

The US Department of Homeland Security issued a technical alert for cloudhopper, which it said was engaged in cyber espionage and theft of intellectual property, after experts with two prominent US cybersecurity companies warned earlier this week that Chinese hacking activity has surged amid the escalating trade war between Washington and Beijing.

Chinese authorities have repeatedly denied claims by Western cyber-security firms that it supports hacking. Homeland Security released the information to support US companies in responding to attacks by the group, which is targeting information technology, energy, healthcare, communications and manufacturing firms.

WASHINGTON POST, REUTERS

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on October 05, 2018, with the headline 'US indicts 7 Russian spies over hacking linked to Olympics scandal'. Print Edition | Subscribe