Russian Spies Attacked Olympic Games With Malware

The GRU, Russia’s military intelligence service are accused of hacking officials and organisations at the 2020 Olympic and Paralympic Games which were were due to take place in Tokyo in th 2020 summer, before being postponed due to the Coronavirus epidemic. The attacks on the 2020 Summer Games are the latest in a campaign of Russian malicious cyber activity against the Olympic and Paralympic Games.

Many previous ascribed Russian cyber-attacks have been against the state institutions of Moscow’s political opponents, but some of this activity has been directed at the agencies conducting inquiries into Russian sports doping.

The British government has recently confirmed  the extent of GRU targeting of the 2018 Winter Olympic and Paralympic Games in Pyongyang, Republic of Korea, disguising itself as North Korean and Chinese hackers when it targeted the opening ceremony of the 2018 Winter Games. It went on to target broadcasters, a ski resort, Olympic officials and sponsors of the games in 2018. Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab said, “The GRU’s actions against the Olympic and Paralympic Games are cynical and reckless. We condemn them in the strongest possible terms…The UK will continue to work with our allies to call out and counter future malicious cyber-attacks”.

On 19th October, the US Department of Justice announced criminal charges against Russian military intelligence officers working for the GRU’s destructive cyber unit, also known by the code names Sandworm and VoodooBear. 

These charges are for conducting cyberattacks against the 2018 Winter Games and other cyber-attacks, including the 2018 spear phishing attacks against the UK’s Defence Science and Technology Laboratory. Britain is the first government to confirm details of the breadth of a previously reported Russian attempt to disrupt the 2018 winter Olympics and Paralympics in Pyongyang, South Korea. It declared with what it described as 95% confidence that the disruption of both the winter and summer Olympics was carried out remotely by the GRU unit 74455.

The GRU attacks have used some of the world’s most destructive malware known including: KillDisk and Industroyer, which each caused blackouts in UkraineNotPetya, which caused nearly $1 billion in losses to the three victims identified in the indictment and Olympic Destroyer, which disrupted thousands of computers used to support the 2018 Pyongyang Winter Olympics.  

The revelations potentially come at a difficult time for Donald Trump as the issue of Russian interference in US politics has reappeared in the presidential election campaign. 

President Trump’s personal lawyer Rudy Giuliani and the New York Post have been accused of unwittingly letting themselves be used by Russia to spread disinformation about the Democratic candidate, Joe Biden. The allegations emerged as officials in the United States were indicting the Russian intelligence operatives for interfering with the 2017 French presidential election, shutting down parts of Ukraine's power grid and launching cyber attacks against the 2018 Winter Olympics in South Korea.

The US indictment charges the defendants with conspiracy, computer hacking, wire fraud, aggravated identity theft, and false registration of a domain name.

GovUK:     US Dept. of Justice:      Guardian:        Brisbane Times:     Reuters:

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