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  • U.S. Accuses Russians for Olympic Cyber Attack


    10/20/20

    (ATR) The Russian hackers accused of attacking the 2018 Olympic Winter Games in PyeongChang appear to have hijacked the name of IOC member Gunilla Lindberg as part of their attempt to disrupt the event.
    FBI wanted poster

    The US Justice Department is charging six Russian military officers in a scheme to launch cyber attacks against foreign governments and the 2018 Olympics. The indictment issued October 19 says the attack against the Olympics was in retaliation for Russia being excluded from the Games due to the doping scandal uncovered from the 2014 Winter Olympics in Sochi, Russia.

    Click here for the indictment. 

    Among the charges lodged in the 16 pages covering crimes related to the Olympic attacks, the hackers are accused of sending phishing emails using the name of an IOC member, only identified as chair of the IOC commission for PyeongChang.

    Gunilla Lindberg (ATR)
    A redacted example of one of the emails strikes out the name of the member purported to be sending the message, but includes the salutation of “Ms.” along with the title of VP and executive board member in the signature. Lindberg, IOC member in Sweden, was chair of the coordination commission for 2018 and an EB member at the time, but not a vice president.

    Lindberg says she will limit her comments on the matter to an IOC statement issued earlier this week. The IOC says that it and the organizing committees "invest a lot to offer the Olympic Games and the IOC the best cyber security environment possible. Given the nature of the topic, we do not divulge those measures".

    The indictment alleges that the phishing emails were launched over a period of months in 2017 ahead of the Olympics.

    The Opening Ceremony in PyeongChang was affected by hackers. (ATR)
    The cyber attack went further, says the indictment, causing disruption to ticketing for the opening ceremony, interference with drone cameras and Internet outages during the Games.

    Timing sponsor Omega was also a target of the cyber attacks, but not mentioned by name in the indictment, only referenced as the timing sponsor of the Olympics.

    The Olympic attack was given the nickname “Sour Grapes” by investigators. Some details of the scheme were revealed at the time of the Games, but the indictment released this week is the first on the record accounting of the alleged attacks. Along with the legal charges in the indictment, the FBI has released a poster with the names and pictures of the six men charged. The US government says all are members of the Russian army intelligence unit known by the acronym GRU.

    A spokesman for Russia President Vladimir Putin denies the government had anything to do with the cyber attacks.

    Along with the US charges, British officials say that Russia was planning a cyber attack against the Tokyo Olympics once scheduled for July but now postponed until 2021 as a result of the coronavirus pandemic.

    The pandemic put a halt to proceedings at the Court of Arbitration for Sport which might have resulted in Russian athletes being banned from the Tokyo Olympics as well. The appeal of that proposed ban will be heard by the court in November.

    Homepage photo: ATR

    Written by Ed Hula

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