OTTAWA – The minister in charge of Canada’s cyber agencies says he is “very concerned” about the “untoward” cyberattacks that Russian intelligence officers have been charged with, following a multi-jurisdictional investigation into “malicious” activity that targeted Canadian-based doping agencies and an international chemical weapon organization.

The U.S. Justice Department has indicted seven Russian military intelligence officers for their alleged involvement in a series of cyber-attacks aimed at spreading misinformation to Russia’s advantage.

Speaking with reporters in Regina, Public Safety Minister Ralph Goodale said he was “very concerned” about the instances where he said there is “clear evidence” that Russian spies hacked Canada.

Russian military intelligence service officers (GRU) are accused of the 2016 hacking of the Canada-based World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA); as well as compromising the Canadian Centre for Ethics in Sport, and other sporting federations and organizations.

Following these hacks, the personal medical information of more than 250 athletes from 30 counties was illegally released online. The hack is being viewed by the various intelligence agencies as retaliation at the agencies that publicly supported a ban on Russian athletes in international sports competitions and because they had condemned Russia's state-sponsored athlete doping program.

“Clearly there is evidence that very untoward behaviour by the Russians has been at play here, totally outside the norm of civilized behaviour among countries and we’re standing with our allies… to call out that illicit behaviour when we see it,” Goodale said.

Four of the officers were also charged for cyber-targeting the Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons’ (OPCW) network. The OPCW was investigating the poisoning of a former Russian intelligence official in Salisbury, U.K., as well as looking into chemical weapons used in Syria.

In a separate announcement earlier in the day, U.K. and Dutch officials placed blame on the GRU for a series of attacks, including on the OPCW network.

“These attacks have been conducted in flagrant violation of international law, have affected citizens in a large number of countries, including Russia, and have cost national economies millions,” said the UK government in a statement.

The Russians also targeted a Pennsylvania-based nuclear energy company, according to the U.S. officials.

Three of the seven spies have previously been charged by Special counsel Robert Mueller in his ongoing investigation into Russian interference in the 2016 presidential election. Among the charges the spies are facing: aggravated identity theft, and wire fraud.

The charges were announced by the U.S. Justice Department Thursday morning, at a press conference attended by RCMP Cybercrime Director Mark Flynn.

“International law enforcement are collaborating on this,” Flynn said, adding that a parallel investigation pertaining to Canadian victims is ongoing in Canada.

Though, the minister sought to reassure Canadians that Canada’s security agencies are working to protect national security, including a new national cyber security strategy.

“Today, Canada joins its allies in identifying and exposing a series of malicious cyber-operations by the Russian military. These acts form part of a broader pattern of activities by the Russian government that lie well outside the bounds of appropriate behaviour, demonstrate a disregard for international law and undermine the rules-based international order,” said Global Affairs Canada in a statement.

Global Affairs Canada said these incidents “underscore the Russian government’s disregard for the rules-based international order, international law and established norms.”

Speaking with reporters in the House of Commons foyer on Thursday, foreign affairs parliamentary secretary said additional sanctions on Russia are possible, and could be announced in a matter of days.

Konstantin Kosachev, the head of the foreign affairs committee in the upper house of Russian parliament, denounced the accusations as fake, saying they are intended to "delegitimize Russia" and pave the way for using any illegitimate means against it.

He argued that the West has picked up the GRU as "a modern analogue of the KGB which served as a bugaboo for people in the West during the Cold War."


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