NATIONAL NEWS

Russian officials charged in years-old energy sector hacks

Mar 24, 2022, 6:34 PM | Updated: Jun 13, 2022, 3:37 pm
WASHINGTON, DC - MARCH 10: U.S. Attorney General Merrick Garland and Deputy U.S. Attorney General L...
WASHINGTON, DC - MARCH 10: U.S. Attorney General Merrick Garland and Deputy U.S. Attorney General Lisa Monaco convene the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) Fraud Enforcement Task Force at the Justice Department on March 10, 2022 in Washington, DC. (Photo by Kevin Lamarque-Pool/Getty Images)
(Photo by Kevin Lamarque-Pool/Getty Images)

WASHINGTON (AP) — Four Russian officials, including hackers with a government intelligence agency, have been charged in malicious intrusions that targeted the energy industry and thousands of computers in the United States and around the world between 2012 and 2018, the Justice Department said Thursday in unsealing a pair of indictments.

The hacks targeted companies and organizations in about 135 countries. Among the victims was the owner of a Kansas nuclear power plant whose business network was compromised by the hackers, officials said.

Though the intrusions date back years, the indictments were unsealed as the FBI has raised fresh alarms about efforts by Russian hackers to scan the networks of U.S. energy firms for vulnerabilities that could be exploited during Russia’s war against Ukraine. Multiple federal agencies on Thursday published a joint advisory on the hacking campaign, alerting energy executives to take steps to protect their systems from Russian operatives.

“Russian state-sponsored hackers pose a serious and persistent threat to critical infrastructure both in the United States and around the world,” Deputy Attorney General Lisa Monaco said in a statement. “Although the criminal charges unsealed today reflect past activity, they make crystal clear the urgent ongoing need for American businesses to harden their defenses and remain vigilant.”

None of the four defendants is in custody, though a Justice Department official who briefed reporters on the cases said the department determined that it was better to make the investigation public rather than wait for the “distant possibility” of arrests. The State Department on Thursday announced rewards of up to $10 million for information leading to the “identification or location” of any of the four defendants.

The indicted Russians include an employee at a Russian military research institute accused of working with co-conspirators in 2017 to hack the systems of a foreign refinery and to install malicious software, twice resulting in emergency shutdowns of operations. The malware was designed with a goal of inflicting physical damage by disabling a safety shutdown function meant to normally stop a refinery from “catastrophic failure,” a Justice Department official said.

The employee, Evgeny Viktorovich Gladkikh, also tried to break into the computers of an unidentified U.S. company that operates multiple oil refineries, according to an indictment that was filed in June 2021 and was unsealed Thursday.

The three other defendants are alleged hackers with Russia’s Federal Security Service, or FSB — which conducts domestic intelligence and counterintelligence — and members of a hacking unit known to cybersecurity researchers as Dragonfly.

The hackers are accused of installing malware through legitimate software updates on more than 17,000 devices in the U.S. and other countries. Their supply chain attacks between 2012 and 2014 targeted oil and gas firms, nuclear power plants and utility and power transmission companies, prosecutors said. The goal, according to the indictment, was to “establish and maintain surreptitious unauthorized access to networks, computers, and devices of companies and other entities in the energy sector.”

A second phase of the attack, officials said, involved spear-phishing attacks targeting more than 500 U.S. and international companies, as well as U.S. government agencies including the Nuclear Regulatory Commission.

The hackers also successfully compromised the business network of the Wolf Creek Nuclear Operating Corporation in Burlington, Kansas, which operates a nuclear power plant.

KSL 5 TV Live

Top Stories

National News

Second gentleman Douglas Emhoff (C), husband of Vice President Kamala Harris, delivers remarks duri...
DARLENE SUPERVILLE, Associated Press

Emhoff: ‘Epidemic of hate’ exists in US, mustn’t become norm

Doug Emhoff, the husband of Vice President Kamala Harris, says a rise in antisemitism in the United States shows that an “epidemic of hate” exists in the country and that it must not become normal.
13 hours ago
FILE: Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 (left) and Moderna COVID-19 (right) vaccines are seen at a vaccinati...
LOLITA C. BALDOR and KEVIN FREKING, Associated Press

Congress set to rescind COVID-19 vaccine mandate for troops

The COVID-19 vaccine mandate for members of the U.S. military would be rescinded under the annual defense bill heading for a vote this week in Congress.
13 hours ago
People wait in line of to see a demonstration Call of Duty WWII at the Activision exhibit on openin...
Associated Press

Microsoft strikes 10-year deal with Nintendo on Call of Duty

Microsoft has agreed to make the hit video game Call of Duty available on Nintendo for 10 years should its $69 billion purchase of game maker Activision Blizzard go through.
13 hours ago
A view of the substation while work is in progress Monday in Carthage, North Carolina. (Peter Zay/A...
John Miller, Jason Hanna and Whitney Wild, CNN

Nearly 2 dozen shell casings found in North Carolina electric substation shootings, sources say

Nearly two dozen shell casings from a high-powered rifle have been recovered from the sites where gunfire disabled two North Carolina electric substations last weekend and left much of a county without electricity service for days, according to law enforcement sources.
13 hours ago
Packages of Juul mint flavored e-cigarettes are displayed at San Rafael Smokeshop on November 07, 2...
MICHELLE CHAPMAN and MATTHEW PERRONE, AP Business Writers

Juul reaches settlements covering more than 5,000 cases

Electronic cigarette maker Juul Labs has reached settlements covering more than 5,000 cases brought by about 10,000 plaintiffs related to its vaping products.
13 hours ago
A new bodycam footage reveals what Gabby Petito told police about a domestic dispute with fiancé B...
Amanda Musa and Jamiel Lynch, CNN

Gabby Petito’s parents file motion to add Laundrie family attorney as defendant in an ongoing lawsuit

The parents of Gabby Petito have filed a motion to add Laundrie family attorney Steven Bertolino as a defendant in an ongoing civil lawsuit against Brian Laundrie's parents.
13 hours ago

Sponsored Articles

notebook with password notes highlighted...
PC Laptops

How to Create Strong Passwords You Can Actually Remember

Learn how you can create strong passwords that are actually easy to remember! In a short time you can create new ones in seconds.
house with for rent sign posted...
Chase Harrington, president and COO of Entrata

Top 5 reasons you may want to consider apartment life over owning a home

There are many benefits of renting that can be overshadowed by the allure of buying a home. Here are five reasons why renting might be right for you.
Festive kitchen in Christmas decorations. Christmas dining room....
Lighting Design

6 Holiday Decor Trends to Try in 2022

We've rounded out the top 6 holiday decor trends for 2022 so you can be ahead of the game before you start shopping. 
Happy diverse college or university students are having fun on their graduation day...
BYU MBA at the Marriott School of Business

How to choose what MBA program is right for you: Take this quiz before you apply!

Wondering what MBA program is right for you? Take this quiz before you apply to see if it will help you meet your goals.
Diverse Group of Energetic Professionals Team Meeting in Modern Office: Brainstorming IT Programmer...
Les Olson

Don’t let a ransomware attack get you down | Protect your workplace today with cyber insurance

Business owners and operators should be on guard to protect their workplace. Cyber insurance can protect you from online attacks.
Hand turning a thermostat knob to increase savings by decreasing energy consumption. Composite imag...
Lighting Design

5 Lighting Tips to Save Energy and Money in Your Home

Advances in lighting technology make it easier to use smart features to cut costs. Read for tips to save energy by using different lighting strategies in your home.
Russian officials charged in years-old energy sector hacks