Russia cyber plots: US, UK and Netherlands allege hacking

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International desk, October 04: Russian spies have been accused of involvement in a series of cyber plots across the globe, leading the US to level charges against seven agents.The US Justice Department said targets included the global chemical weapons watchdog, anti-doping agencies and a US nuclear company.

The allegations are part of an organised push-back against alleged Russian cyber attacks around the world.

Russia earlier dismissed the allegations as “Western spy mania”.

The US statement came after Dutch security services said they had expelled four Russians in April over the plot against the Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW).

The OPCW has been probing the chemical attack on a Russian ex-spy in the UK.

A joint statement from British Prime Minister Theresa May and her Dutch counterpart Mark Rutte said the alleged plot demonstrated “the GRU’s disregard for global values and rules that keep us all safe”.

Earlier, the UK government accused the GRU of being behind four high-profile cyber-attacks whose targets included firms in Russia and Ukraine; the US Democratic Party; and a small TV network in the UK.

Meanwhile, British Foreign Secretary Jeremy Hunt said the UK was discussing further sanctions against Russia with its allies.

Russia is yet to comment officially. However, its foreign ministry said one would follow shortly after it dismissed the allegations as “Western spy mania…. picking up pace”.

The four suspects identified by Dutch officials had diplomatic passports and included two IT experts and two support agents, officials said.

They hired a car and parked it in the car park of the Marriot hotel in The Hague, which is next to the OPCW office, to hack into the OPCW’s wifi network, Major General Onno Eichelsheim from the Dutch MIVD intelligence service said.

Equipment in the car boot was pointed at the OPCW and was being used to intercept login details. The antenna for the operation lay under a jacket on the car’s rear shelf.

When the men were intercepted they tried to destroy one of the mobile phones they were carrying.

One of their mobile phones was found to have been activated near the GRU building in Moscow. Another carried a receipt for a taxi journey from a street near the GRU to the airport.

Maj Gen Eichelsheim said the group were planning to travel to Switzerland, to a laboratory in Spiez where the OPCW analysed samples.

They never made it. Instead, the four were immediately escorted out of the country, Maj Gen Eichelsheim said.

Source: News Agencies