The US Department of Justice has charged seven Russian military intelligence officers with hacking anti-doping agencies and other organisations.
An indictment announced in Washington on Thursday said Russia's military intelligence agency, known as the GRU, targeted the hacking victims because they had publicly supported a ban on Russian athletes in international sports competitions and because they had condemned Russia's state-sponsored athlete doping program.
Prosecutors said the Russians also targeted a Pennsylvania-based nuclear energy company and an international organisation that was investigating chemical weapons in Syria and the poisoning of a former GRU officer.
The indictment said the hacking was often conducted remotely. If that was not successful, the hackers would conduct “on-site” or “close access” hacking operations with trained GRU members travelling with sophisticated equipment to target their victims through WiFi networks.
US Defense Secretary Jim Mattis said earlier Thursday that the United States stood ready to help its NATO allies amid allegations that Russia’s intelligence services launched a series of cyberattacks.
After talks with NATO defense ministers in Brussels on Thursday, Mattis said: “We are ready today to provide cyber-support to our allies. That is now.”
JUST IN: U.S. charges seven Russian military intelligence officials, alleging hacking conspiracy to obtain "personal health information about athletes and others in the files of anti-doping agencies and sporting federations in multiple countries." https://t.co/3AH4OVd9T5 pic.twitter.com/ZfYHx9uUgR
— ABC News (@ABC) October 4, 2018
He did not say if the offered capabilities would be used in response to British and Dutch claims that Russia’s GRU attempted cyberattacks on the international chemical weapons watchdog and other targets.
Mr Mattis backed their allegations, saying: “I’ve seen enough of the evidence to say the Dutch and the British are 100 percent accurate in who they’ve attributed this to.”
Britain, the Netherlands and Denmark also offered offensive cyber-capabilities to NATO.
Meanwhile, NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg has warned Russia to halt its “reckless” behaviour amid a series of global cyberattacks blamed on Moscow, and said NATO allies stand united behind the UK and Dutch governments.
In a statement issued Thursday during a meeting of NATO defence ministers, Stoltenberg said “NATO allies stand in solidarity with the decision by the Dutch and British governments to call out Russia on its blatant attempts to undermine international law and institutions.”
He said that “Russia must stop its reckless pattern of behaviour, including the use of force against its neighbours, attempted interference in election processes, and widespread disinformation campaigns.”
The 29 allies are discussing cybersecurity at talks in Brussels, with the US, Britain, Denmark and the Netherlands due to announce that they will provide offensive cyber-capabilities for use by NATO.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.