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US Justice Department says it disrupted Russian intelligence hacking network

Published 02/15/2024, 12:18 PM
Updated 02/15/2024, 01:57 PM

By Christopher Bing

WASHINGTON (Reuters) -The U.S. Justice Department said on Thursday it disrupted a Russian intelligence-controlled hacking network.

"The Justice Department is accelerating our efforts to disrupt the Russian government's cyber campaigns against the United States and our allies, including Ukraine," U.S. Attorney General Merrick Garland said in a statement.

Armed with a court order, the FBI in January disabled a "global cyber espionage platform" built by Russia's Main Intelligence Directorate, more commonly known as the GRU, according to the announcement.

“Notably, this represents the third time since Russia’s unjustified invasion of Ukraine that the department has stripped the Russian intelligence services of a key tool used to further the Kremlin’s acts of aggression," said Assistant Attorney General Matthew Olsen.

The hacking network, also known as a botnet, worked by compromising and installing malware on vulnerable computer routers around the globe, which could then be used to stage later attacks. Hackers often use botnets to conceal their activities and bring a larger scale to their operations.

© Reuters. A hand is seen on a laptop with binary code displayed on the screen in front of Russian flag in this picture illustration taken August 19, 2022. REUTERS/Dado Ruvic/Illustration

The FBI sent pieces of computer code through the internet to the infected routers, modifying their firewalls to block further access. Officials said that step was temporary and owners need to update their software to fix the issue. Most of the affected routers are deployed in small or home offices.

Garland said that Russian intelligence services in this case relied on criminal groups to develop the botnet program.

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