U.K. Blames Kremlin for 2016 Hacking of U.S. Democratic Party

(Bloomberg) -- Russia “almost certainly” hacked the U.S. Democratic National Committee’s 2016 presidential campaign, the U.K. said, blaming the Kremlin for a spate of “reckless and indiscriminate” cyber attacks in recent years.

The evidence from the U.K.’s National Cyber Security Centre could feed into Special Prosecutor Robert Mueller’s investigation into Russian interference in the 2016 U.S. election and alleged cooperation by Donald Trump’s campaign.

The NCSC Thursday associated four new attacks to Russia’s GRU military intelligence agency. Russia’s central bank and Odessa Airport were highly likely to have been the victim of cyber attacks, it said. The World Anti-Doping Agency was hacked in 2017, which led to the release of international athletes’ confidential medical records. Two Russian media outlets, a small U.K.-based TV station and the Kiev metro were also targeted, it said.

“The GRU’s actions are reckless and indiscriminate: they try to undermine and interfere in elections in other countries; they are even prepared to damage Russian companies and Russian citizens,” U.K. Foreign Secretary Jeremy Hunt said in a statement. “This pattern of behavior demonstrates their desire to operate without regard to international law or established norms and to do so with a feeling of impunity and without consequences.”

Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison and Foreign Minister Marise Payne joined the U.K. in condemning “malicious cyber activity” by Russia.

Kremlin Responsible

The GRU used names including Fancy Bear, Pawnstorm and Tsar Team to carry out the attacks, with the Kremlin ultimately responsible, the NCSC said.

The U.K.’s diplomatic relations with Russia are at their worst since the height of the Cold War in the 1970s. British police believe two Russians, using the aliases Alexander Petrov and Ruslan Boshirov, sprayed the weapons-grade nerve agent Novichok on a door handle at the home of former Russian spy Sergei Skripal on March 4 in Salisbury, southern England.

The attack left Skripal and his daughter Yulia critically ill. Salisbury resident Dawn Sturgess, 44, who was later exposed to the same nerve agent carried into the U.K. in a counterfeit perfume bottle, died in July.

Russia denies any involvement in the Skripal attack, which led to a mass expulsion of diplomats from Europe and the imposition of sanctions by the U.S. President Vladimir Putin this week denounced Skripal as a “scumbag” and a “traitor.”

Online investigative site Bellingcat, along with Russian news portal The Insider, uncovered information identifying “Boshirov” as Colonel Anatoliy Chepiga, a special forces veteran and GRU agent.

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