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UK accuses Russian intelligence of targeting Tokyo Olympics

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Russian military intelligence targeted the 2020 Olympics due to be held in Tokyo this summer, Britain said today.

It accused the GRU of secretly carrying out cyber reconnaissance against officials and organisations involved in the Olympic and Paralympics before they were postponed.

Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab branded the actions, which are believed may have been preparatory work to disrupt the games, as “cynical and reckless”.

Athletes from Russia were not set to take part in the Tokyo event after it was hit with a four-year ban from all major sporting events by the World Anti-Doping Agency.

The GRU’s cyber unit 74455 was also accused of trying to disguise itself as North Korean and Chinese hackers, by leaving behind “false flag” trails, in an operation which sought to disrupt the 2018 Winter Games in Pyeongchang, South Korea, including the opening ceremony.

Targets were said to include broadcasters, a ski resort, Olympic officials and sponsors.

GRU Russia: The spy agency and global cyber-attacks explained

Data-deletion malware, which can paralyse computers and networks, was unleashed against IT systems used for the winter competition, according to Britain’s UK’s National Cyber Security Centre, and devices were also targeted across South Korea using VPNFilter.

The cyber offences are blamed on the GRU’s Main Centre for Special Technologies, GTsST, or unit 74455.

The GTsST is suspected publicly of operating under the names VoodooBear, Sandworm, BlackEnergy Group, Iron Viking, Telebots, G0034, Industroyer, Electrum and Quedagh.

The British cyber security experts, working alongside US counterparts, identified its latest targets as including organisers of the Toyko Olympic and Paralympic games, sponsors and logistics services.

Dominic Raab described the alleged cyber offences as “cycnical and reckless” (PA)

The GRU is believed to have attempted to compromise systems and to carry out activities such as making false accounts that might look like belonging to individuals involved in the Games, setting up fake websites and researching individuals and organisations.

Mr Raab said: “The GRU’s actions against the Olympic and Paralympic Games are cynical and reckless. We condemn them in the strongest possible terms.

“The UK will continue to work with our allies to call out and counter future malicious cyber attacks.”

Moscow has previously denied involvement in such activities.

However, Britain and European allies have already imposed travel bans and asset freezes on GRU officers involved in cybers attacks and more people could be sanctioned.

The naming and shaming aims to disrupt GRU activities by forcing it to change its operating methods, to encourage organisations to boost their cyber defences and to shape norms of how nations should be expected to behave in cyber space.

The latest move by allies in the West highlights that Russia is allegedly willing to disrupt major sporting events, watched and enjoyed by millions, rather than just targeting other states.

However, Russia has not ceased its cyber offensive activities which are believed to be authorised at a high political level.

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