12 Russian GRU Hackers Indicted Over Hacking Democrats During 2016 US Election Campaign
The US Justice Department has charged several Russian hackers, who were members of the Russian military intelligence outfit known as the GRU, with conspiring to hack Democrats during the 2016 presidential election campaign.
The dozen accused used spearphishing emails and malware in their cyberattacks to infiltrate networks of the Democratic Congressional Committee and Democratic National Campaign Committee to steal documents.
The indictment charges 12 Russians of hacking into computers, stealing documents, and then releasing those documents with "the intent to interfere with the election," Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein detailed the new charges during a press conference. GRU members have been charged for being behind a "sustained effort" to hack into the DNC network and the presidential campaign of former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton.
"The defendants covertly monitored the computers, implanted hundreds of files containing malicious computer code, and stole emails and other documents."
Russian hackers (GRU officials) created fictitious online personas like "DCLeaks" and "Guccifer 2.0"
The indictment reads that GRU officials began their cyberattacks in March 2016 and employed several Americans during this conspiracy. However, there is no allegation against any US citizen.
"There’s no allegation in this indictment that any American citizen committed a crime," Rosenstein said, adding that the goal of the hacks was to have an impact on the election. However, this impact doesn't mean that the vote count was changed.
"There’s no allegation that the conspiracy changed the vote count or affected any election result."
"The goal of the conspirators was to have an impact on the election," he added. "What impact they may have had, what their motivation may have been independently of what's required to prove this offence, is a matter of speculation. That's not our responsibility."
Speculations aside, the probe has also charged two defendants with "conspiring to infiltrate computers of organizations responsible for administering elections, including state boards of election, secretaries of state, and companies that supply software and other technology used to administer elections."
"The indictment charges 11 of the defendants with conspiracy to commit computer crimes, eight counts of aggravated identity theft, and conspiracy to launder money. Two defendants are charged with a separate conspiracy to commit computer crimes." special counsel Robert S Mueller's office said.
The Russian hackers were allegedly working for two units of the GRU.
"There was one unit that engaged in active cyber operations by stealing information and a different unit responsible for disseminating the stolen information," Rosenstein said, reports the Washington Post. The hackers also created false personas, popularly known as DC Leaks and Guccifer 2.0, that were used to disseminate the stolen documents while disguising the campaign's Russian origins.
While President Donald Trump hasn't been a supporter of this probe previously calling it a witch hunt, Rosenstein said that he has been briefed about this indictment earlier this week and "is fully aware of today's actions by the department."
The Department hasn't alleged if any Trump advisers colluded with Russia to interfere with the presidential campaign. These charges, however, come just days before Trump is expected to meet Russian President Vladimir Putin in Finland.
The Russian hackers in the indictment are identified as: Viktor Borisovich Netyksho, Boris Alekseyevich Antonov, Dmitriy Sergeyevich Badin, Ivan Sergeyevich Yermakov, Aleksey Viktorovich Lukashev, Sergey Aleksandrovich Morgachev, Nikolay Yuryevich Kozachek, Pavel Vyacheslavovich Yershov, Artem Andreyevich Malyshev, Aleksandr Vladimirovich Osadchuk, Aleksey Aleksandrovich Potemkin, and Anatoliy Sergeyevich Kovalev.
All 12 defendants are Russian military officers in the GRU, and it is unlikely if they will ever serve jail time in the US.