NATO's General Secretary has warned Russia to quit its "reckless" behaviour after seven of its nationals have been accused of involvement in a series of cyber attacks.

By Daniel Herborn

Posted on October 5, 2018

The Dutch government said it foiled an attempt to hack the Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW), the international chemicals weapons watchdog, during its investigation into the Salisbury nerve agent attack which took the life of English woman Dawn Sturgess.

Four Russian nationals were expelled from the Netherlands after the poisoning earlier this year.

MH17 investigation, sports administrations targeted by Russian spies

“This statement is irresponsible,” the Russian embassy said.

“As is traditional, it is not backed by any proof and is another element in an anti-Russian campaign being conducted by the British government.”

US and UK authorities have also named the US Democratic Party, FIFA, the US anti-doping agency and nuclear energy company Westinghouse as other targets of Russian hacks.

Federal prosecutors will allege that Russian intelligence agencies sought to undermine the Olympic games by accessing and distributing information about athletes and anti-doping measures. They have been charged with computer hacking, aggravated identity theft, wire fraud and money laundering.

Canadian officials also have “high confidence” that security breaches at its Centre for Ethics in Sports and at the World Anti-Doping Agency were carried out by Russian intelligence. The sports administration bodies were apparently attacked in retalliation for Russian athletes being banned for doping violations at the 2016 Olympics and 2018 Winter Olympics.

Yet another instance of Russian hacking saw GRU agents attempt to disrupt the investigation into Malaysia Airlines flight MH17 which crashed in 2014, killing all 298 passengers.

The international community has condemned the Russian attacks

Three of the spies indicted were also previously charged in July after Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation into the 2016 US election campaign.

In a joint statement, UK Prime Minister Theresa May and Dutch Prime Minister Mark Rutte said the Russian spies had shown a “disregard for the global values and rules that keep us safe” while UK Foreign Secretary Jeremy Hunt said Russia would come to regret its actions.

British Defense Secretary Gavin Williamson echoed these sentiments. “This is not the actions of a great power, these are the actions of a pariah state,” he told reporters.

Far from being a sophisticated covert operation, the attempt to hack the OPCW was a failure. The four Russian agents involved parked opposite the building and tried to infiltrate the organisation’s wi-fi. But British intelligence had tipped off their Dutch counterparts about the men arriving in the country and they had been under surveillance.

Dutch officials seized a computer, a smartphone and devices for hacking wi-fi connections. The men were also carrying tens of thousands of dollars, triggering money laundering regulations.

NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg said “NATO allies stand in solidarity with the decision by the Dutch and British governments to call out Russia on its blatant attempts to undermine international law and institutions.

“Russia must stop its reckless pattern of behaviour,” he continued “Including the use of force against its neighbours, attempted interference in election processes, and widespread disinformation campaigns.”