(OPCW photo)

GRU Officers Implicated in OPCW Hacking Attempt, Targeting American Entities

The Netherlands General Intelligence and Security Service and UK counterparts along with the Netherlands Defence Intelligence and Security Service (DISS) disrupted a cyber operation being carried out by a Russian military intelligence (GRU) team targeting the Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW) in The Hague, Dutch officials said Thursday.

The four Russian intelligence officers entered the Netherlands via Schiphol Airport, traveling on diplomatic passports. They subsequently hired a car which they positioned in the parking lot of the Marriot Hotel adjacent to the OPCW offices in mid-April.

Equipment was set up in the back of the car with which the officers intended to hack into wifi networks and which was installed for the purpose of infiltrating the OPCW’s network. The antenna for this equipment lay hidden under a jacket on the rear shelf and the equipment was operational when DISS interrupted the operation.

Further investigation revealed that one of the Russian intelligence officers operating in the Netherlands had also been active in Malaysia, targeting the investigation of the crash of Malaysia Airlines flight MH17, Dutch officials added.

The Dutch government said that on Aug. 6 the U.S. Department of Justice “submitted a request for legal assistance to the Dutch Public Prosecutor’s office in connection with a criminal investigation into unauthorized Russian cyber operations.”

On Thursday, the DOJ announced that a grand jury in the Western District of Pennsylvania has indicted seven defendants, all officers in the Russian Main Intelligence Directorate (GRU), a military intelligence agency of the General Staff of the Armed Forces of the Russian Federation, for computer hacking, wire fraud, aggravated identity theft, and money laundering.

According to the indictment, beginning in or around December 2014 and continuing until at least May 2018, the conspiracy conducted persistent and sophisticated computer intrusions affecting U.S. persons, corporate entities, international organizations, and their respective employees located around the world, based on their strategic interest to the Russian government.

Among the goals of the conspiracy was to publicize stolen information as part of an influence and disinformation campaign designed to undermine, retaliate against, and otherwise delegitimize the efforts of international anti-doping organizations and officials who had publicly exposed a Russian state-sponsored athlete doping program and to damage the reputations of athletes around the world by falsely claiming that such athletes were using banned or performance-enhancing drugs.

“State-sponsored hacking and disinformation campaigns pose serious threats to our security and to our open society, but the Department of Justice is defending against them,” Attorney General Jeff Sessions said. “Today we are indicting seven GRU officers for multiple felonies each, including the use of hacking to spread the personal information of hundreds of anti-doping officials and athletes as part of an effort to distract from Russia’s state-sponsored doping program. The defendants in this case allegedly targeted multiple Americans and American entities for hacking, from our national anti-doping agency to the Westinghouse Electric Company near Pittsburgh. We are determined to achieve justice in these cases and we will continue to protect the American people from hackers and disinformation.”

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The Government Technology & Services Coalition's Homeland Security Today (HSToday) is the premier news and information resource for the homeland security community, dedicated to elevating the discussions and insights that can support a safe and secure nation. A non-profit magazine and media platform, HSToday provides readers with the whole story, placing facts and comments in context to inform debate and drive realistic solutions to some of the nation’s most vexing security challenges.

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