Russian hackers accused of targeting U.S. intelligence community with spear phishing campaign

Russian hackers accused of targeting U.S. intelligence community with spear phishing campaign

Washington — Russia-based hackers conducted a sophisticated cyber campaign against American intelligence officials, including contractors at the State and Defense Departments, as part of an international operation that targeted Western states, the Justice Department alleged Thursday.

Prosecutors accused an officer in Russia’s Federal Security Service (FSB) and another co-defendant of carrying out a spear phishing campaign between October 2016 and October 2022 against current and former employees of the U.S. intelligence community, defense contractors and Energy Department facilities.

Ruslan Aleksandrovich Peretyatko — the FSB officer — and Andrey Stanislavovich Korinets, who are both part of an organization known as the Callisto Group, allegedly used spoof email accounts that appeared to be from legitimate individuals to trick victims into providing their login credentials in order to access their email accounts, according to a federal indictment unsealed in California. 

The two are charged with conspiracy to commit an offense against the U.S. and conspiracy to commit wire fraud. 

Think tank researchers and journalists in the United Kingdom and other Western nations were also targeted in the alleged Russian hacking campaign, investigators said, and Justice Department officials placed the blame squarely at the feet of the Russian government. 

“Through this malign influence activity directed at the democratic processes of the United Kingdom, Russia again demonstrates its commitment to using weaponized campaigns of cyber espionage against such networks in unacceptable ways,” Assistant Attorney General Matthew Olsen, head of the Justice Department’s National Security Division, said in a statement. 

Both defendants are currently wanted by the FBI and believed to be in Russia.

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