Skripal probe hackers unmasked: Six Russians accused of trying to infiltrate Salisbury poisoning probe are named

  • Hackers who tried to infiltrate Salisbury investigation have been unmasked 
  • They were charged in the US over a series of cyber-attacks across the world 
  • Indictment accuses group of trying to undermine UK efforts to hold Moscow to account 

Russian hackers who tried to infiltrate the Salisbury poisoning investigation were unmasked tonight.

The six were named as military intelligence officers working for the Kremlin’s shadowy cyber unit as they were charged in the US over a series of cyber-attacks across the world.

Along with the Salisbury probe, the members of the GRU spy agency also allegedly targeted the 2017 French election, the Ukrainian power grid and infrastructure networks, including hospitals.

Unmasked: Charged Russian military officers Yuriy Sergeyevich Andrienko, left, and Petr Nikolayevich Pliskin, right 

The 50-page indictment, released tonight, accuses the group of trying to undermine UK efforts to hold Moscow to account over the use of Novichok nerve-agent on British soil.

Assistant Attorney General for National Security John Demers said the six officers were responsible for ‘the most disruptive and destructive series of computer attacks ever attributed to a single group.’ 

The US Department of Justice accused the team of targeting the probe into the 2018 poisoning of former double agent Sergei Skripal and his daughter, Yulia, by the chemical weapons watchdog, the OPCW.

Artem Valeryevich Ochichenko, left, and Anatoliy Sergeyevich Kovalev, right

The indictment also accused them of carrying out ‘phishing’ attacks against the UK’s Defence Science and Technology Laboratory, also known as Porton Down, sending emails that looked legitimate but contained viruses that, if opened, would allow the hackers access to top secret systems.

Britain had already publicly blamed Russia for a series of cyber-attacks against the laboratory but last night the US announced criminal charges as a series of hacks were exposed.

The US indictment named the six military officials as Anatoliy Sergeyevich Kovalev, Yuriy Sergeyevich Andrie- nko, Petr Nikolayevich Pliskin, Artem Valeryevich Ochichenko, Sergey Vladimirovich Detistov and Pavel Valerye- vich Frolov.

Kovalev, an officer assigned to Military Unit 74455, was charged with sending ‘spearphishing’ emails ‘targeting a wide variety of entities and individuals’ including Porton Down.

Mr Demers said: ‘No country has weaponized its cyber capabilities as maliciously or irresponsibly as Russia, wantonly causing unprecedented damage to pursue small tactical advantages and to satisfy fits of spite.

‘No nation will recapture greatness while behaving in this way.’

The seven charge indictment alleges the group, who are all still in Russia and are unlikely to ever see the inside of a US courtroom, caused more than £800million of losses to their targets.

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