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Goodale 'very concerned' by Russian spies' cyberattack on Canada, allies

05 October 2018

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

A newly-published indictment by the U.S. Department of Justice charges seven alleged Russian intelligence agents with using cryptocurrencies as part of a broad "influence and disinformation" scheme.

Britain says the attack was carried out by GRU officers and nearly certainly approved "at a senior level of the Russian state".

Britain and the Netherlands have accused Russia of running a global campaign of cyber-attacks to undermine democracies, including a thwarted attempt to hack into the United Nations chemical weapons watchdog while it was analysing a Russian poison used to attack a spy.

The Dutch defense minister says Russia's military intelligence unit attempted cybercrimes targeting the worldwide chemical weapons watchdog and the investigation into the 2014 Malaysian Airlines crash over Ukraine.

The attack on the OPCW took place in May 2018 at the time the organization was working to independently verify the UK's analysis of the chemical used in the poisoning of the Skripals in Salisbury.

In a joint statement from Theresa May and Dutch prime minister Mark Rutte said the spy agency had shown a "disregard for the global values and rules that keep us safe".

The Russians were tracked by Dutch and British secret services from their arrival in Amsterdam on diplomatic passports in April, and then seen hiring a Citroen auto which they parked outside the Marriott hotel next to the OPCW.

The men hired a auto filled with specialised equipment, including an antenna which was hidden under a coat in the boot, to try and hack the wifi network of the OPCW.

After the Skripal poisoning, the West agreed with Britain's assessment that the GRU was to blame and launched the biggest expulsion of Russian spies working under diplomatic cover since the height of the Cold War. Some of their mobile phones were also activated in Moscow near the agency's headquarters.

"They were clearly not here on holiday", the head of the Dutch intelligence service said on Thursday.

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The British ambassador to the Netherlands Peter Wilson also revealed how one of the agents allegedly attempted to disrupt the investigation into Malaysia Airlines Flight 17 (MH17), which was shot down in 2014.

They had planned to travel on to a laboratory in Spiez, Switzerland used by the OPCW to analyse chemical weapons samples, he said.

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

"The use of bitcoin allowed the conspirators to avoid direct relationships with traditional financial institutions, allowing them to evade greater scrutiny of their identities and sources of funds", it said. Moscow denied the Bellingcat report, describing the allegation as "bogus".

The US indictment says the seven defendants are all Russian citizens and residents.

According to the indictment, operations were running from December 2014 until at least May this year, and involved "persistent and sophisticated computer intrusions" based on strategic interest to the Russian government. Three of the seven officials that are named in this specific indictment (Yermakov, Malyshev and Badin) were also named by Mueller as interfering in the 2016 USA election.

British authorities say that in March, immediately after the nerve agent attack on ex-Russian spy Sergei Skripal in Salisbury, the GRU tried to hack into Foreign Office computer systems via a phishing attack.

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.

The Russian Foreign Ministry on October 4 described the accusations as "fantasy", as British Defense Secretary Gavin Williamson condemned Russia as a "pariah state" whose "reckless and indiscriminate" attacks had left it isolated in the global community.

"That's a hell of a mix for a perfume", she told reporters.

Goodale 'very concerned' by Russian spies' cyberattack on Canada, allies