Russians charged in vast hacking campaign, including Olympics

PyeongChang Olympics

WASHINGTON (AP) — Six Russian military officers sought to disrupt through computer hacking the French election, the Winter Olympics and U.S. businesses, according to a Justice Department indictment unsealed Monday that details attacks on a broad range of political, financial and athletic targets.

The indictment also accuses the defendants, all alleged officers in the Russian military agency known as the GRU, in destructive attacks on Ukraine’s power grid and in a hack-and-leak effort directed at the political party of French President Emmanuel Macron during the 2017 election.

The indictment does not charge the defendants in connection with interference in American elections, focusing instead on attacks that prosecutors said were aimed at promoting Russian’s own geopolitical interests.

Those include cyberattacks that targeted the 2018 Winter Olympics in PyeongChang, South Korea, where Russian athletes were banned because of a state-sponsored doping effort.

“No country has weaponized its cyber capabilities as maliciously or irresponsibly as Russia, wantonly causing unprecedented damage to pursue small tactical advantages and to satisfy fits of spite,” said Assistant Attorney General John Demers, the Justice Department’s top national security official.

He called it “the most disruptive and destructive series of computer attacks ever attributed to a single group.”

After Russia was punished by the International Olympic Committee for a vast doping conspiracy at the 2014 Winter Olympics in Sochi, hackers targeted sports agencies around the world.

More than 250 athletes’ medical records were published and confidential data from some of the world’s biggest sports organizations — the Olympics, world track and field, FIFA — were stolen, in what U.S. prosecutors said was retaliation for the doping punishments.

Other Olympic-related organizations were also hit by hackers: the world track and field body, which suspended Russia from in 2015 over widespread doping; Canada’s anti-doping agency, a trenchant critic of Russia; the Court of Arbitration for Sport, which ruled against some Russian athletes.

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