Canada joins allies in condemning 'malicious' Russian cyberattacks

Posted October 05, 2018

Western powers accused Russian Federation on Thursday of orchestrating a string of global cyber attacks including a bungled plot to hack the world's chemical weapons watchdog in The Netherlands.

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.

Four Russian intelligence agents part of the GRU were caught "in flagrante" attempting to hack the headquarters of the chemical weapons watchdog in the Netherlands, Whitehall officials have said.

Russia scathingly accused the West of "spy mania", while Russian President Vladimir Putin has repeatedly and angrily rejected similar charges.

The minister in charge of Canada's cyber agencies says he is "very concerned" about the "untoward" cyberattacks that Russian intelligence officers have been charged with, following a multi-jurisdictional investigation into "malicious" activity that targeted Canadian-based doping agencies and an worldwide chemical weapon organization.

Relations between Russia and the United Kingdom seriously deteriorated after Britain accused the Kremlin of poisoning former Russian agent Sergei Skripal and his daughter Yulia in Salisbury in March of this year. The four men were found to have rented a vehicle and parked it outside a hotel near the building in the Hague.

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At the presentation, Major General Eichelsheim showed the antennae, laptops and other equipment he said the men meant to use to breach the OPCW's wifi network.

The head of Dutch counterintelligence confirmed that the OPCW was working on the Skripal investigation at the time but added that investigators "have not been able to prove that they targeted the OPCW because of the Skripal investigation". Dutch investigators said the snoopers nabbed outside the OPCW also appear to have logged into the Wi-Fi networks near the World Anti-Doping Agency and the Malaysian hotels where crash investigators had gathered to investigate the shooting down of passenger flight MH17.

It was also reported that the two agents had been planning to travel on to the OPCW-registered laboratory in Spiez near Berne.

On April 13, these men were discovered by Dutch authorities and sent back to Russian Federation.

A briefing in The Hague was shown pictures of each of the men's passports.

The Department of Justice on Thursday announced the indictment of seven Russian military spies on cyberhacking charges.

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The hack is being viewed by the various intelligence agencies as retaliation at the agencies that publicly supported a ban on Russian athletes in global sports competitions and because they had condemned Russia's state-sponsored athlete doping program.

According to Justice Department officials, the operatives tried to publicize information they had stolen in order to undermine and delegitimize the anti-doping organizations.

Canada said "with high confidence" that breaches at its centre for ethics in sports and at the Montreal-based World Anti-Doping Agency were carried out by Russian intelligence.

The NCSC linked the GRU with a number of hackers, including APT 28, Fancy Bear, Sofacy, Pawnstorm, Sednit, CyberCaliphate, Cyber Berkut, Voodoo Bear and BlackEnergy Actors.

Apparently unsuccessful in the effort from afar, two of the GRU spies flew to Rio to hack the Wi-Fi networks used by anti-doping officials in their hotels and elsewhere, officials said.

Russian Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Maria Zakharova on Thursday dismissed the new accusations as "big fantasies". "And that's what happened today", he told reporters in Saskatchewan.

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The OPCW, in turn, was investigating the poisoning of GRU defector Sergei Skripal in which the nerve agent Novichok was used, a bold operation that British authorities dissected in a minute-by-minute surveillance camera montage last month.