The World of International Organizations

Russian hackers accused in Olympic cyber plots

An American diplomatic security agent scouts a location in Gangneung, South Korea, during the 2018 Winter Olympics (AN/DSS)

(Arête News) — Russia vehemently denied on Tuesday accusations and charges by British and American authorities that its agents planned or carried out cyberattacks of Olympic and Paralympic Games.

Russia’s British Embassy said on Twitter that the British accusations were part of a “malicious disinformation campaign aimed at discrediting Russia” and would undermine Russia-U.K. ties along with Britain’s international standing.

Separately, Russia’s U.S. Embassy declared on Twitter “it is absolutely obvious that such news breaks have no bearing on reality and are aimed at whipping up Russophobic sentiments in American society, at launching a ‘witch hunt’ & spy mania, which have been a distinctive feature of the political life in Washington for several years.”

On Monday, Britain’s national cybersecurity agency revealed plans by Russian military spies to hack the 2020 Summer Olympics and Paralympics in Tokyo. U.S. authorities charged six Russians in cyberattacks including the 2018 Winter Olympics in South Korea.

Tracking ‘malicious activity’

The same Russian unit that had interfered in the 2016 U.S. elections planned a cyberattack to disrupt the Tokyo games, which have subsequently been postponed until 2021 due to the global coronavirus pandemic, the U.K. National Cyber Security Centre asserted in a statement that coincided with the U.S. Justice Department charges.

British authorities said that Russia’s GRU military intelligence service had carried out some malicious cyberattacks and reconnaissance against officials and organizations involved in the 2020 Olympic and Paralympic Games, before they were postponed.

Its statement coincided with the Justice Department unsealing criminal charges against six Russian military intelligence officers who have been accused of carrying out a series of cyberattacks that targeted the PyeongChang Olympic games in 2018, France’s presidential election in 2017 and Ukrainian power companies in 2015 and 2016.

Authorities said that cybersecurity researchers had tracked the Russians’ “malicious activity” using the labels of Sandworm Team, Telebots, Voodoo Bear and Iron Viking. The disclosures were made from what was an apparent joint U.K.-U.S. intelligence operation.

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