DOJ charges former Russian government employees for hacking energy sectors

The U.S. Department of Justice indicted four Russian nationals on Thursday alleged to have hacked energy sectors in 135 countries.

In one of the indictments unsealed in the U.S. District Court of the District of Columbia, the DOJ alleges that Evgeny Viktorovich Gladkikh, a Russian computer programmer, and his co-conspirator targeted a foreign oil facility, causing two separate emergency shutdowns. Gladkikh and the unnamed co-conspirator then tried to hack a U.S. energy company.

In the second indictment unsealed in a district court in Kansas, prosecutors accused three officers of Russia’s Federal Security Service (FSB) of installing malware in computer systems of several energy sectors, including nuclear power plants, oil and gas firms and utility and power transmission companies.

According to the indictment, some of the charges brought against the defendants can carry a maximum of 20 years in prison. 

“Russian state-sponsored hackers pose a serious and persistent threat to critical infrastructure both in the United States and around the world,” said Deputy Attorney General Lisa Monaco in a statement on Thursday. “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.”

The indictment follows a series of warnings from U.S. officials, including the White House and the FBI, who have urged the private sector to strengthen its cyber defenses against possible Russian cyberattacks.  

White House officials have stated that although there are no credible threats against the U.S. at the moment, U.S. intelligence officials have seen “preparatory activity” suggesting the Russian government is exploring “options for potential cyberattacks” against critical infrastructure.

“The conduct alleged in these charges is the kind of conduct that we are concerned about under the current circumstances,” a DOJ official said during a press conference.

“These charges show the dark art of the possible when it comes to critical infrastructure,” the DOJ official added. 

Tags DOJ FBI FSB Kansas Russia

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