back to article The fur is not gonna fly: Uncle Sam charges seven Russians with Fancy Bear hack sprees

In what's turning into International Cyber-Attribution Week, a US federal grand jury has indicted seven alleged Russian military intelligence officers – and accused them of hacking anti-doping watchdogs, sports officials, and others. Four of the men are said to be part of a hacking operation, run by Kremlin spy agency GRU, …

  1. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Correction here

    ... since they're never going to stand a fair trial, the stakes are too high here. As for proof, we all know the spying agencies are transparent and honest organizations. On both sides.

    Yes, it is very likely that individuals from Russia are responsible for committing this kind of crimes, however the effort to connect them with the Russian government seems questionable to me, it has to serve a purpose. Makes me remember the famous episode of WMD as a premise of invading Iraq. Everybody and his dog was rushing to pile up credible evidence going up to the famous accurate satellite photographs. I know, I know, this time Western governments have proofs beyond doubt.

    I wonder who wants a war with Russia and what would be the purpose. There must be some sort of a resource (no, not oil) important enough for the Western world to try to secure it. At any cost.

    1. Winno

      Re: Correction here

      So it's just bunch of Russians jetting across the globe at their own expense, hacking for giggles and shits?

      Try harder comrade...

    2. Kevin McMurtrie Silver badge

      Re: Correction here

      US and Russia have been trying to weaken each other for a very long time. I think the only thing that has changed is increased reporting. Russia is suspected of helping Trump destroy the US so they're in the spotlight now.

      1. Spazturtle Silver badge

        Re: Correction here

        "Russia is suspected of helping Trump destroy the US so they're in the spotlight now."

        Not entirely correct, the report said that Russia was responsible for paying trolls to post comments and memes on facebook, twitter, reddit, ect. They posted both pro-trump, anti-trump, pro-hillary and anti-hillary comments and memes. As the election got nearer they reduced the amount of pro-trump and pro-hillary posts they made and increased the amount of anti-trump and anti-hillary posts in order to stoke tensions. Their main objective was to cause the american public to become divided and create discord, which I think we can safely say they have achieved that goal.

        1. Teiwaz Silver badge

          Re: Correction here

          Their main objective was to cause the american public to become divided and create discord, which I think we can safely say they have achieved that goal.

          Help along rather than 'cause'. The U.S is a proud country with people not shy in voicing their own opinions and standing by them in the face of everything, upto and including armed foes, facts and evidence to the contrary.

          More than capable of creating their own crippling polarised discord without help from Russia I think.

        2. Walter Bishop Silver badge

          Re: Correction here

          > Russia was responsible for paying trolls to post comments and memes on facebook ..

          I believe everything I read on Facebook :|

          1. Evil Auditor Silver badge

            Re: Correction here

            I believe everything I read on Facebook :|

            Then again, can you read? Or can you look at pictures only?

            Either way, you totally convinced me that everything on Farcebook is real. And I may not even have an account there.

      2. Joe Harrison Silver badge

        Re: Correction here

        I think even the die-hards have given up on the "Russian interference in US elections" allegations, mainly because months of investigation has to date resulted in no such evidence. However, former FBI general counsel James Baker's recent interviews with the house judiciary committee, and upcoming potential declassification of some FISA court documents, are very likely soon to give a clear indication of foreign country interference in the 2016 US elections.

        1. DavCrav Silver badge

          Re: Correction here

          "I think even the die-hards have given up on the "Russian interference in US elections" allegations, mainly because months of investigation has to date resulted in no such evidence."

          You mean apart from the indictments of a dozen Russians over election interference?

          1. Anonymous Coward
            Anonymous Coward

            Re: Correction here

            Gee, that's not very convincing at all. Release stolen emails no one disputes were real and valid?

            How'd that make the loser so stupid as to not even campaign in some states she lost?

            If you want to trace interesting election events, we can afford to remember that UK had a tie to the dossier, and Steele's "high kremlin sources" were as likely to have been named Skripal as anything else...

            And to have been shut up by the local government after failing to die, as would have been the case had anyone in authority told the truth.

            You know, that dossier paid for by the party that lost and now wants to blame the Russians for it?

            You do realize that one could think like this and in no way be defending the people who won that elections, right? A choice between losers simply makes one embarrassed to be involved at all.

            1. DavCrav Silver badge

              Re: Correction here

              "Gee, that's not very convincing at all."

              They have literally been indicted for the crime it was said allegations of which had been given up on. You might be technically correct though, inasmuch as they have now moved from allegations to indictments.

    3. DavCrav Silver badge

      Re: Correction here

      "Yes, it is very likely that individuals from Russia are responsible for committing this kind of crimes, however the effort to connect them with the Russian government seems questionable to me, it has to serve a purpose. "

      So the two guys who are definitely not GRU in Salisbury just happened to be available for a puff-ball Russia Today interview hours after being formally accused by the UK?

    4. GnuTzu Bronze badge
      Joke

      Re: Correction here -- No U.S. Vacations

      AFAIK, it simply translates to: "if you want a vacation in the U.S., we've got a special hotel for you."

    5. GnuTzu Bronze badge

      Re: Correction here -- Who's Commenting?

      It's really curious to see the back and forth in this conversation. I can't believe this topic is that controversial. I'm inclined to believe that some of this is not of western nations. Maybe El Reg should be checking IP addresses. Vote me down if your Russian.

      1. Skwosh

        Re: Correction here -- Who's Commenting?

        Actually, please please please don't try to ban the Russian trolls – if only on grounds of entertainment value.

        Personally I'm finding some of the anonymous, cough, cough, comments on these spy stories fascinating, and often mildly hilarious.

        It is said that in the old days of the USSR everyone knew the news was a lie, and so you learned to say to yourself, well, this is what they want us to believe, so what does that tell us about what might actually be going on in reality.

        I think we are more than capable of applying the same approach here to decoding the trolls – in particular, which stories do they turn out in force on, and also what aspects of a given story do they not comment on.

        I think knowing what they (or their superiors) think is the best way to counter something is actually pretty revealing.

      2. Archtech Silver badge

        Re: Correction here -- Who's Commenting?

        " Vote me down if your Russian".

        That remark demonstrates either an utter ignorance of basic Aristotelian logic, or - much worse - deep cynicism. As well as ignorance of basic English grammar.

        I have voted you down, and I am 100% British (Scottish actually).

        1. This post has been deleted by its author

        2. GnuTzu Bronze badge

          Re: Correction here -- Who's Commenting?

          @Archtech, Actually, it was meant to have an ironic flavor to it. Yet, the thing I find cynical is the ad hominem response for what was meant to have a dark whimsy about it. And, if you've never made a typo, homonym or not, then I'd think you'd be happy about being so perfect. (Geesh, "hominem" is a homonym, or at least a near homonym.) Ultimately, I'm really just curious if there are Russian trolls here. It would be interesting if El Reg would publish statistics on origin of IP addresses for those leaving comments on these topics.

    6. TheVogon Silver badge

      Re: Correction here

      "Largely pointless, since they're never going to stand trial"

      Unless they ever set foot outside of Russia of course...

  2. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Distraction has made its masterpiece

    Is there, pray tell, perhaps something else, of importance, happening in America at the moment ?

    1. Marketing Hack Silver badge

      Re: Distraction has made its masterpiece

      @AC

      Can't be, otherwise we would have heard about it...SQUIRREL!!!

  3. Mark 85 Silver badge

    Same guys?

    From earlier today, but there's no names: https://www.theregister.co.uk/2018/10/04/gru_opcw_hack_bust/

    Seems we're in the middle of some sort of dog-and-pony show here in the west. Seven people named but how did they get the names and photos? I would think that any alleged spy would travel on a fake passport and/or fake credentials.

    1. Frank Zuiderduin

      Re: Same guys?

      All four were named - with copies of their passports - in the articles that showed up on the web here in The Netherlands, when the news about the The Hague situation first came out.

      https://nos.nl/artikel/2253313-mivd-we-hebben-russische-hack-van-opcw-in-den-haag-voorkomen.html

      Whether those passports actually show the guys' real names...?

    2. DavCrav Silver badge

      Re: Same guys?

      "Seven people named but how did they get the names and photos?"

      I think they call it 'policework'. It's what everyone on here tells the police to do instead of spying on everyone's phone calls and e-mails. Why are you not happy when they actually do it?

      1. Jellied Eel Silver badge

        Re: Same guys?

        I think they call it 'policework'. It's what everyone on here tells the police to do instead of spying on everyone's phone calls and e-mails.

        Sometimes. I the Russians involved obviously listed 'Security at Zork Industries' on their visa applications, so police knew they were a GRU. Otherwise, how would police know? It's one of those ironies where allegations against people involved an element of spying, but spying is bad.

        1. DavCrav Silver badge

          Re: Same guys?

          "Sometimes. I the Russians involved obviously listed 'Security at Zork Industries' on their visa applications, so police knew they were a GRU. Otherwise, how would police know? It's one of those ironies where allegations against people involved an element of spying, but spying is bad."

          Well, in the one case four guys were caught outside the place with a car full of monitoring equipment, all on diplomatic passports. So, you know, there is that.

          1. Jellied Eel Silver badge

            Re: Same guys?

            Well, in the one case four guys were caught outside the place with a car full of monitoring equipment, all on diplomatic passports. So, you know, there is that.

            Yup. 4 men found at a hotel with mobiles, laptops and wifi. How.. unusual. Ok, the transformer seemed a bit odd (and bulky). But so far, so normal for business. Or just a spot of war driving. The BBC has an article asking why the Dutch didn't charge these men.

            The security theatre is provided by the US, who have. Even though any crimes would seem to have been committed in Holland, possibly against a Dutch lab that's accredited by the UN. But then the US knows the probability of getting those 4 to the US to prosecute is slim. And then there'd be evidence. Bit of an old-fashioned concept, but possibly easier if the laptops were unencrypted with a handy folder called 'hax'.

            But such is theatre. It differs from court in that you don't have to worry about evidence, or why you're not presenting the accused with the evidence against them. Even if they may also be entitled to it under the OPCW convention.

            1. Archtech Silver badge

              Re: Same guys?

              They have grotesquely overdone it. But experience has shown them that Western citizens will believe absolutely anything, no matter how obviously untrue.

              The basic thesis itself is self-evidently absurd: that the Russians are wicked, powerful and adept, but also sloppy, stupid and incompetent.

              Then there are the specifics.

              1. That GRU officers (not agents - they are equivalent to officers in, say, British military intelligence) would undertake operations in the field at all. Intelligence officers don't do that - they hire locals or foreign criminals, precisely so that the operations remain plausibly deniable. (Now, what country's leaders coined that familiar phrase?)

              2. That anyone carrying out such an operation would travel under their own identities and papers, or any identities and papers traceable to themselves or their organization.

              3. That they would go around together in a hire car loaded with exactly the kind of equipment that a TV script writer would give glamorous international spies.

              4. That their computers and phones would contain masses of detailed information about contacts, operations, dates, times, places - and, most ridiculous of all, about previous operations in different countries.

              I blush for my compatriots when I realise that they did not all roll around on the floor laughing when they first saw those allegations. I also fear for them - and myself - when I remember that all this is being done in order to justify attacks (of whatever kind) on Russia, whose leaders can render the UK totally uninhabitable within half an hour if they wish.

              1. Walter Bishop Silver badge

                Re: Same guys?

                That they would go around together in a hire car loaded with exactly the kind of equipment that a TV script writer would give glamorous international spies.”

                You have to remember that this is mostly aimed at the kind of people who think that “Jack Bauer” is a real super-agent.

              2. John Stirling

                Re: Same guys?

                I would imagine your compatriots did indeed roll on the floor laughing Ivan.

                I can fix your basic thesis though;

                The <insert any serious nation state here> are wicked, powerful and adept, but also sloppy, stupid and incompetent.

                Seems pretty self evidently true to me.

      2. Teiwaz Silver badge
        Joke

        Re: Same guys?

        I think they call it 'policework'. It's what everyone on here tells the police to do instead of spying on everyone's phone calls and e-mails. Why are you not happy when they actually do it?

        Suspicion.

        It's like being at a French or Italian restaurant* when the snotty waiters grouped in the back finally put out their horrible cigarettes and saunter insolently over to your table to take your order, finally; and don't insult you in any way whatsoever while doing so.

        You just know there's something else going on...

        * Nothing against French or Italians or their restaurants, but maybe, I've had numerous run-ins with barely polite waiters from both on ocassion.

      3. Archtech Silver badge

        Re: Same guys?

        "I think they call it 'policework'. It's what everyone on here tells the police to do instead of spying on everyone's phone calls and e-mails. Why are you not happy when they actually do it?"

        Police work is fine. What worries some of us is when politicians - including the PM - stand up in Parliament and say who is guilty before the police work has got under way.

        After that, the chances of the police contradicting the PM are non-existent.

    3. DCFusor Silver badge

      Re: Same guys?

      Sounds like the West is telling their bosses to give them achievement awards. Or simply telling them to find other work and let the new guys have a chance...

  4. Potemkine! Silver badge

    Largely pointless?

    I don't think so.

    - these seven guys will have to have a lower profile now

    - it clearly shows Russia is actively cyber-attacking western countries

    - those different stories show two constant attack angles: spear-phishing and wifi. These are interesting data for IT security.

    1. Anonymous Coward Silver badge

      Re: Largely pointless?

      It also says to Russia "We know what you're up to, and now so does everybody else"

    2. Teiwaz Silver badge

      Re: Largely pointless?

      - it clearly shows Russia is actively cyber-attacking western countries

      I don't doubt some western nations are trying the same.

      Is the resulting no similar fingering of such operatives a result of more or less skilled approach and results?

  5. Zippy´s Sausage Factory
    Paris Hilton

    Do we know for certain this was government-sanctioned? Or were they just rogue operatives within GRU who were running Fancy Bear as a sideline because being a Russian spook doesn't pay enough? We'll almost certainly never know whether that's the case or not, naturally, but my money's on almost nobody knowing the actual truth of the thing for about thirty years or so.

    Paris icon because I think I just confused myself...

    1. Insert sadsack pun here

      Well, if it were just a private business venture and not to do with the state, who would be their client? Who's got a commercial disagreement with both WADA and the OPCW and wants to use Russian hackers to penetrate them?

  6. Chronos Silver badge
    Mushroom

    Slightly below average temperature war.

    I'm beginning to wonder if certain parties on both sides have looked back, seen all the money that was made and advances realised during the Cold War and are trying to return to those days. I certainly wouldn't put such a motive past Arsenoise and our very own Old Grey May-or would like a bogeyman or two if she's to undermine online encryption. Vladimir Vladimirovitch is quite happy because it makes Russia look like a superpower again and everything is gravy.

    Icon. It doesn't really matter that yet another generation of kids will go to sleep wondering if they'll wake to a blinding flash followed by vaporisation or radiation sickness.

  7. Rustbucket

    GRU Staff Shortages?

    I know that the GRU is a big organization but lately the west has blown the cover of many of their overseas operatives. The two guys who conducted the Novichok attacks were found to have almost sequential passport numbers from a non-typical passport number range, which means anyone else who had traveled to the West and had their details recorded with a similar passport number is also busted. That detail in itself could account for tens of possible agents.

    There must be a limit on the number of people who are both trained, qualified and trusted to carry out these kinds of missions in the West.

POST COMMENT House rules

Not a member of The Register? Create a new account here.

  • Enter your comment

  • Add an icon

Anonymous cowards cannot choose their icon

Biting the hand that feeds IT © 1998–2019