Russian spies charged in global hack of energy industry, including Kansas nuclear power plant

From 2014 to 2017, Akulov, Gavrilov and Tyukov are accused of using spearphishing and other tactics to target more than 3,300 specific people working in the energy industry. Their targets worked at more than 500 different entities, including the US Nuclear Regulatory Commission, according to the indictment. In one instance, they allegedly compromised the business network of Wolf Creek Nuclear Operating Corp. in Kansas, which operates a nuclear power plant, although a Justice Department official was granted anonymity as a condition of allowing reporters to join a news conference. , said Thursday that the control systems network had not been consulted.

The indictment was one of two unsealed Thursday against Russian hackers. A second unsealed indictment in U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia alleged that Russian national Evgeny Viktorovich Gladkikh and unnamed co-conspirators targeted a foreign oil facility and a US energy company between 2017 and 2018.

“Russian state-sponsored hackers pose a serious and persistent threat to critical infrastructure in the United States and around the world,” Deputy Attorney General Lisa Monaco said in a statement Thursday. “While the criminal charges unveiled today reflect past activity, they clearly demonstrate the urgent and ongoing need for corporate America to strengthen their defenses and remain vigilant.”

The Justice Department official noted that further actions by the US federal government would be announced in the coming days.

“These accusations show the dark art of the possible when it comes to critical infrastructure,” the Justice Department official said.

The official said the Justice Department chose to unseal the indictments to warn people of risks to critical infrastructure — and to underscore the department’s concerns about ongoing malicious Russian activity. The official said the indictments are a reminder of the intent and capabilities of the Russian government. The unsealing also appears to be a tacit acknowledgment that indicted military officials are highly unlikely to be arrested and extradited to the United States.

Just days ago, President Joe Biden warned that ‘evolving intelligence’ showed the Russian government was considering cyberattacks on the United States as sanctions weighed and Russian progress on the ground in Ukraine remained largely at a standstill.

The FBI also warned last week that Russian hackers were targeting US energy companies and other US defense, IT and financial groups. Biden sent a letter to governors this week urging them to take “urgent action” to protect their systems.

This is far from the first time that the US government has exposed malicious Russian cyber activity. DHS and the FBI issued an alert in March 2018 warning that the Russian government was targeting the US energy sector through a “multi-stage intrusion campaign”. Biden sanctioned Russia last year for its involvement in the SolarWinds hacking campaign, which gave Russian government hackers access to the networks of at least a dozen federal agencies and 100 private sector groups during about a year.


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