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US charges Russian GRU officers with hacking athletes, nuclear power company

The intelligence officers also allegedly targeted antidoping and anti-chemical weapons bodies.

Department of Justice
The Department of Justice hit hackers with charges Thursday.
/ Getty Images

The US Justice Department on Thursday hit Russian intelligence officers with charges of identity theft, wire fraud and money laundering.

Seven GRU officers allegedly hacked 250 athletes from 30 countries and antidoping organizations, as well as a US nuclear power company and the Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons in the Hague. The GRU hackers are part of a group known as Fancy Bear.

The Justice Department's action follows by one day Britain's accusing Russian military intelligence of cyberattacks meant to stir political discontent in Western countries. The UK's National Cyber Security Centre concluded that the GRU was behind the 2016 hacks of the US Democratic National Committee and the World Anti-Doping Agency.

All the activity comes amid heightened tension between Russia and the US over cybersecurity. The US is especially concerned about hackers interfering with November's midterm elections.

"State-sponsored hacking and disinformation campaigns pose serious threats to our security and to our open society," Attorney General Jeff Sessions said in a statement Thursday.

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Thursday's charges are separate from the investigation by US special counsel Robert Mueller into Russian interference in US elections. In July, Mueller filed charges against 12 Russian hackers tied to cyberattacks against the Democratic National Committee in connection with the 2016 presidential election.

In the investigation detailed Thursday, a joint UK/Dutch intelligence operation led to four Russian GRU officers being "caught red handed in The Hague," where they tried to breach the cyber security of the Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons,"  Assistant Attorney General for National Security John Demers announced.

That group was investigating the use of chemical weapons in Syria and the March poisoning of former officer Sergei Skripal and his daughter Yulia in Salisbury.

Russian hackers also targeted the Westinghouse nuclear power plant in Pennsylvania, said Scott Brady, the US attorney for the state's western district. He didn't provide additional details about the attempt.

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