Written by Tim Starks
A federal grand jury returned an indictment against six alleged Russian intelligence officers who, collectively, were responsible for “conducting the most disruptive and destructive series of computer attacks ever attributed to a single group,” the Justice Department announced Monday.
Their attacks spanned the globe, including the worldwide 2017 NotPetya outbreak that did more than $1 billion in damage to a number of U.S. organizations, according to the indictment; estimates place its worldwide cost at as much as $10 billion. The six accused hackers work for the Russian Main Intelligence Directorate, commonly known as the GRU, that’s been connected to interference in the 2016 U.S. election and other major cyberattacks.
Besides NotPetya, the alleged co-conspirators were behind destructive malware attacks beginning in December 2015 that disrupted Ukraine’s electricity grid; 2017 spearphishing campaigns linked to hack-and-leak efforts to interfere in the French election; attacks related to the Winter Olympics in 2017 and 2018, during a time where Russia was feuding with the Olympics over a doping scandal; spearphishing attacks in 2018 against investigations into the nerve agent poisoning of former Russian intelligence officer Sergei Skripal and others; and 2018 and 2019 campaigns against numerous targets in Georgia, including an attempt to compromise the network of Parliament.
Cybersecurity researchers have labeled the hackers “Sandworm Team,” “Telebots,” “Voodoo Bear” and “Iron Viking.”
“No country has weaponized its cyber capabilities as maliciously or irresponsibly as Russia, wantonly causing unprecedented damage to pursue small tactical advantages and to satisfy fits of spite,” said Assistant Attorney General for National Security John Demers. “Today the Department has charged these Russian officers with conducting the most disruptive and destructive series of computer attacks ever attributed to a single group, including by unleashing the NotPetya malware.”
The defendants — Yuriy Sergeyevich Andrienko, Sergey Vladimirovich Detistov, Pavel Valeryevich Frolov, Anatoliy Sergeyevich Kovalev, Artem Valeryevich Ochichenko and Petr Nikolayevich Pliskin — face charges of conspiracy to conduct computer fraud and abuse, conspiracy to commit wire fraud, wire fraud, damaging protected computers and aggravated identity theft. The six accused hackers were placed on the FBI’s most wanted list.
The U.S. NotPetya victims cited in the indictment include “hospitals and other medical facilities in the Heritage Valley Health System (‘Heritage Valley’) in the Western District of Pennsylvania; a A FedEx Corporation subsidiary, TNT Express B.V.; and a large U.S. pharmaceutical manufacturer” A grand jury in Pittsburgh returned the indictment.
The department worked with authorities in Ukraine, South Korea, New Zealand, Georgia, the U.K. and other governments, as well as Google, Cisco, Facebook and Twitter.