A look at recent Russian cyberattack campaigns
In recent years, state-sponsored Russian hackers have reportedly targeted everything from foreign power plants to Western politicians to religious clergy. On Thursday, the scope of such work was revealed to be even wider, with the U.S. Department of Justice indicting seven Russian military officers for their alleged involvement in cyberattacks against Canada-based doping agencies and an international chemical weapons organization.
These are some of the other major recent cyberattack campaigns of which Russia has been linked.
Russian hackers have allegedly been making concerted efforts to target Ukraine ever since that country’s pro-Kremlin president was unseated following a 2014 popular uprising. In the aftermath of that uprising, Russian forces annexed the Crimean peninsula while stoking separatist factions in the country’s east. Meanwhile, Russian hackers have reportedly targeted everything from Ukraine’s energy grid to its internet infrastructure to its journalists and its military and politicians. Russian hackers have even allegedly attempted to steal the private correspondences of multiple Ukrainian religious leaders.
2016 U.S. Presidential Election
Email leaks from the Democratic National Committee and the Clinton campaign dominated headlines in the run-up to the 2016 U.S. election, with thousands of messages being dumped on WikiLeaks. Later, it was also revealed that nearly two dozen states also had their election systems targeted by hackers. Despite U.S. President Donald Trump’s repeated assertions that there is no proof of Russia’s involvement in these cyberattacks, his country’s top intelligence agencies have all pointed their fingers at the Kremlin. In July, the U.S. Justice Department indicted a dozen Russian military intelligence officers for their alleged involvement in attempts to meddle in the election that brought Trump to power.
U.S. Tech Companies
American tech giants like Microsoft and Yahoo have allegedly been targeted by state-sponsored Russian hackers in recent years, leading to the comprising of more than one billion user accounts. In the latter case, Karim Baratov, a young Canadian hacker who reportedly received more than $1 million for his work, was sentenced to five years in prison for his role in the massive security breach.
Energy utilities have reportedly been a favourite target of Russian hackers in recent years, including 2017 attacks on Hydro One in Ontario and nuclear power plants in the U.S. Although such attacks did not compromise North American energy grids, their potential to cripple nations’ economies and defence capabilities cannot be understated. In Ukraine, however, Russian hackers have allegedly been responsible for several massive blackouts.
An investigation from The Associated Press alleges that Russian hackers targeted more than 200 journalists from around the world between 2014 and 2017, including 50 from The New York Times, scores of Moscow-based foreign correspondents and Russians working for independent news outlets. Using phishing messages, the hackers reportedly focused their efforts on compromising journalists’ Gmail and social media accounts.
2017 French Presidential Election
Some 36 hours before the French cast ballots for a new president in 2017, it was revealed that then-candidate Emmanuel Macron’s campaign had allegedly been targeted by Russia-linked hackers. Although troves of Macron campaign documents -- such as emails and campaign finance material -- were subsequently leaked online, Macron handily won the election over his far-right rival, Marine Le Pen, who appeared to be receiving tacit support from the Kremlin.
With files from The Associated Press