Netherlands says thwarted Russian cyber attack on chemical weapons watchdog

Posted October 05, 2018

Moscow on Thursday rejected the accusations, saying they were unworthy and part of a disinformation campaign created to damage Russian interests.

Britain's National Cyber Security Center says four new attacks are associated with GRU as well as earlier cyberattacks.

At the time the Russian operation was disrupted, the OPCW was investigating the Skripal case as well as an alleged chemical attack in April on the Syrian town of Douma near Damascus by Russian-backed government forces, the MIVD said.

London has also accused two of GRU's officers of poisoning former double-agent Sergei Skripal and his daughter in the British city of Salisbury in March, using a perfume bottle containing a powerful nerve agent. Moscow denied the Bellingcat report, describing the allegation as "bogus".

The four meant to fly from there to Switzerland to target the Spiez Swiss Chemical Laboratory, which was analysing military nerve agents, including the Novichok chemical agent that Britain said was used to poison former GRU officer Sergei Skripal in Salisbury, England in March.

The United States indicted seven alleged Russian members of the GRU military intelligence agency over attacks on targets including the Hague-based OPCW, the US Democratic party, world sports bodies and US nuclear energy company Westinghouse.

The UK and the Dutch held a joint press conference with their defence minister and the British ambassador, the British and Dutch prime ministers issued a joint statement, and the North Atlantic Treaty Organisation secretary general also had a statement ready.

"Basically, the Russians got caught with their equipment, people who were doing it, and they have got to pay the piper".

"Such statements by the Foreign Office are nothing but crude disinformation, aimed at confusing the British and world public opinion", they said in a statement.

Thursday's charges from the DOJ are just the latest to be leveled against Russian intelligence this year. United States prosecutors said the Russians also targeted a Pennsylvania-based nuclear energy company and the OPCW, which was investigating possible war crimes in Syria and the March poisoning of Skripal and his daughter in the English city of Salisbury.

"Our message is clear: together with our allies, we will expose and respond to the GRU's attempts to undermine global stability", he said.

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Britain helped the Netherlands with the operation, they added.

In cases where remote attacks weren't successful, GRU officers were sent overseas to conduct hacking operations against hotel Wi-Fi networks used by anti-doping officials during the Olympic Games.

In April, four GRU operatives allegedly flew from Moscow to the Netherlands and attempted to hack into and infect the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons' Wi-Fi network in what's known as a close access hack operation.

The Dutch government on Thursday accused Russia's military intelligence agency, the GRU, of targeting the world's chemical weapons watchdog, the Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons, through a cyber operation.

The four Russians in the Netherlands were detained on April 13 and expelled to Russia, Dutch Major General Onno Eichelsheim said. Also charged were Oleg Sotnikov, 46, and Alexey Minin, 46.

Justice Department officials declined to provide additional details on Thursday about the attacks on the company.

According to a secret White House assessment recently cited by Wired, the attack caused $10bn worth of damage worldwide.

Ms Bijleveld also accused the men of attempting to access investigation files related to the shooting down of Malaysian Airlines flight MH17 over Ukraine.

Britain's relations with Russian Federation have been strained since the Salisbury attack which targeted former Kremlin agent Sergei Skripal.

The 41-page indictment said Russia's military intelligence agency, the GRU, targeted the anti-doping agencies because they backed a ban on Russian athletes in global sports competitions and publicly condemned the country's state-run athlete doping program.

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