In an interestingly-timed press conference, the US Justice Department said this morning that it has indicted six Russian intelligence agency (GRU) hackers for a four-year long global hacking spree that included attacks against Ukraine, Georgia (the country, not the state), the 2018 PyeongChang Winter Olympics, 2017 French elections, and a hospital in Pennsylvania.
“The FBI has repeatedly warned that Russia is a highly capable cyber adversary, and the information revealed in this indictment illustrates how pervasive and destructive Russia’s cyber activities truly are,” said FBI Deputy Director David Bowdich, adding that:
From November 2015 to October 2019, DoJ stated that “their computer attacks used some of the world’s most destructive malware to date, including: KillDisk and Industroyer.”
The six Russians – Yuriy Sergeyevich Andrienko, 32; Sergey Vladimirovich Detistov, 35; Pavel Valeryevich Frolov, 28; Anatoliy Sergeyevich Kovalev, 29; Artem Valeryevich Ochichenko, 27; and Petr Nikolayevich Pliskin, 32 – face a maximum sentence of 27 years in prison for wire fraud. They are wanted and assumed to be in Russia.
They are all charged in seven counts: conspiracy to conduct computer fraud and abuse, conspiracy to commit wire fraud, wire fraud, damaging protected computers, and aggravated identity theft.
Watch the full press conference below (starting at around 17:00):
Certainly the timing is noteworthy amid the Hunter Biden laptop scandal, Rep. Schiff’s claims of Russian misinformation, and DNI Ratcliffe’s denial of any Russian involvement.
The various speakers from the DOJ and FBI threw out wonderfully scary and hyperbolic statements, such as:
“No country has weaponized its cyber-capabilities as maliciously and irresponsibly as Russia,” Assistant Attorney General John C. Demers said at a DOJ press conference.
“Time and again Russia has made it clear they will not abide by accepted norms,” FBI Deputy Director David Bowdich said.
All of which could provide just enough cover for Joe Biden to push back against any Trump efforts to bring up the laptop during the debate by ‘debunking’ it as part of the “Russian operation,” despite the fact that US intelligence has denied it and there is no proof whatsoever of any linkage.
However, a sliver of truth leaked out during the Q&A with reports as Assistant Attorney General for National Security John C. Demers was asked about Russian meddling in the 2020 election:
Reporter: “Do you have any evidence of the GRU actively trying to hack or take negative actions toward the 2020 election?“
Demers: “…we haven’t seen anything that caused us to question” election integrity.
Watch (does anyone else think he looked nervous in the slip below while choosing his words very carefully):
Which implicitly spoils the “Russia, Russia, Russia” meddling narrative somewhat.