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A portion of an FBI "wanted" poster showing seven Russian GRU officers indicted for a range of cybercrimes. (Image: Courtesy of the FBI)

Seven Russian Main Intelligence Directorate (GRU) military intelligence officers were indicted on a series of felonies, including computer hacking, wire fraud, aggravated identity theft and money laundering, in a scheme lasting from December 2014 to this past May, the Department of Justice announced today.

The wide-spanning targets were all selected for their strategic interest to the Russian government, according to U.S. federal authorities. They included American persons, corporations, international organizations and employees of their entities.

“The actions of these seven hackers, all working as officials for the Russian government, were criminal, retaliatory, and damaging to innocent victims and the United States’ economy, as well as to world organizations,” said Christopher Wray, the director of the Federal Bureau of Investigation.

The Russian “hackers” are: Aleksei Sergeyevich Morenets, 41; Evgenii Mikhaylovich Sterebriakov, 37; Ivan Sergeyevich Yermakov, 32; Artem Andreyevich Malyshev, 30; Dmitry Sergeyevich Badin, 27; Oleg Mikhaylovich Sotnikov, 46; and Alexey Valerevich Minin, 46.

The first five were part of Military Unit 261675, and the last two are other GRU officers, according to the DOJ.

The indictment alleges the Russian officers tried remote hacking methods, including spearphishing emails and malware programs.

But when those methods didn’t produce invasive enough log-in credentials or high-enough access, several of the officers would physically travel to the targets, thereby using Wi-Fi networks and hacking techniques to get their sought-after access, according to the court documents.

The scheme became significantly more active after the Russian doping scandal, which was intended to favor Russia’s athletes at the 2014 Sochi Winter Olympics. Among the first targets were the anti-doping organizations and officials who started the investigation.

But the effort expanded to the infamous “Fancy Bears’ Hack Team”—which was involved in the hacking, disinformation and media dissemination campaigns over several years, which have dominated headlines in the U.S. and beyond.

"In many instances, the stolen information was publicized by the GRU as part of a related 'influence and disinformation' campaign designed to undermine the legitimate interests of the victims, further Russian interests, retaliate against Russia's detractors and sway public opinion in Russia's favor," the indictment states.

The grand jury sat in the Western District of Pennsylvania. One of the victims was the Westinghouse Electric Corporation, which is headquartered in the region. Other target victims include the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons, headquartered in The Hague; and also Spiez Swiss Chemical Laboratory in Switzerland, which analyzed the the chemical agents used to poison several recently in the United Kingdom - including a former GRU officer.

Twelve Russian intelligence officers were also indicated in July by federal authorities. That same month, it was reported that Russian hackers were turning their sights toward the U.S. power grid.

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