Russia at centre of new outrage over cyber attacks

EU chiefs have responded to reports of Russian cyber attacks, this time on a chemicals agency.

Russian spies have been accused of involvement in a series of cyber-plots across the globe, leading the US to level charges against seven agents.

The US justice department said targets included the global chemical weapons watchdog, anti-doping agencies and a US nuclear company.

The allegations are part of an organised push-back against alleged Russian cyber-attacks around the world.

The four suspects now being identified by Dutch officials had diplomatic passports and included two IT experts and two support agents, officials said.

They hired a car and parked it in the car park of the Marriot hotel in The Hague, which is next to the Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW) office, to hack into the OPCW's wifi network, Major General Onno Eichelsheim from the Dutch MIVD intelligence service said.

Equipment in the car boot was pointed at the OPCW and was being used to intercept login details, he said, adding that the antenna for the operation lay under a jacket on the car's rear shelf.

When the men were intercepted they tried to destroy one of the mobile phones they were carrying, Maj Gen Eichelsheim said.

He said one of their mobile phones was found to have been activated near the GRU building in Moscow, while another carried a receipt for a taxi journey from a street near the GRU to the airport.

Maj Gen Eichelsheim said the group were planning to travel to Switzerland, to a laboratory in Spiez where the OPCW analysed samples.

They never made it. Instead, the four were immediately escorted out of the country, he added.They were named by the MIVD as hackers Alexei Morenetz and Yevgeny Serebriakov, and support agents Oleg Sotnikov and Alexei Minin.

Officials said they were from the GRU's Unit 26165, which has also been known as APT 28. The UK's ambassador to the Netherlands, Peter Wilson, said the unit had "sent officers around the world to conduct brazen close access cyber-operations" - which involve hacking into wifi networks.

On Thursday, EU foreign affairs supremo Federica Mogherini and European council president Donald Tusk issued a joint statement on the affair.

It reads, "In April the offices of the Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW) in The Hague were targeted by a hostile cyber operation carried out by the Russian military intelligence service (GRU). This operation was disrupted by Dutch intelligence services in partnership with the United Kingdom (UK).

"In addition, the UK government has indicated earlier today that it has identified that a number of cyber actors widely known to have been conducting cyber attacks around the world are, in fact, the Russian military intelligence service (GRU).

"We express serious concerns about this attempt to undermine the integrity of the Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW), a respected international organisation, hosted by the Netherlands. This aggressive act demonstrated contempt for the solemn purpose of the Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW), which works to eradicate weapons worldwide under a United Nations mandate.

"We deplore such actions, which undermine international law and international institutions. The EU will continue to strengthen the resilience of its institutions and those of its Member States, and international partners and organisations in the digital domain."

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Martin Banks

Martin Banks

Martin Banks is a highly qualified journalist with many years experience of working within the EU institutions. He is an occasional, and highly valued, contributor to EU today, writing on a wide variety of issues.

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