The U.S. Department of Justice indicted seven Russian hackers Thursday for computer hacking, wire fraud, aggravated identity theft, and money laundering. The charged were all operatives of the Russian Main Intelligence Directorate (GRU), a Russian Federation military intelligence agency.
“Today we are indicting seven GRU officers for multiple felonies each,” said Attorney General Jeff Sessions in a statement, “including the use of hacking to spread the personal information of hundreds of anti-doping officials and athletes as part of an effort to distract from Russia’s state-sponsored doping program.”
The operatives hacked international organizations, U.S. persons, and U.S. entities, primarily those involved with exposing the Russian state-sponsored athlete doping program in 2014—a reveal which led a number of Russian athletes to be banned from the Olympics and stripped dozens more of their medals.
Their goal was to “undermine, retaliate against, and otherwise delegitimize the efforts of international anti-doping organizations and officials,” according to the Department of Justice. Between December 2014 and May 2018, the operatives gained access to their target’s information remotely. When this failed, some would travel to access their target through its local Wi-Fi connection.
Aside from targeting organizations, the operatives also exposed personal information on roughly 250 athletes from almost 30 countries, claiming to be a hacktivist group called the Fancy Bears’ Hack Team and publicly misconstruing the information to damage the athletes’ reputations.
Three of the men were also charged with attempting to meddle in the 2016 U.S. presidential election, but Thursday’s indictments were unrelated to special counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation, CNN reports.