by Raphael Satter
WASHINGTON (Reuters) – Russian spies accused of interfering in the 2016 US presidential election have spent much of the past two years using and abusing Virtual Private Networks (VPNs) to target hundreds of organizations around the world, state officials say United and the United Kingdom this Thursday.
The governments said in a joint statement that Unit 26165, the arm of Russia’s military spy agency whose agents were indicted for allegedly breaking into Democratic Party emails, had used VPNs and Tor – a privacy-focused network – to conduct “attempts” widespread, distributed and anonymous access attacks with brute force against hundreds of governments and private sector targets”.
The statement does not identify any of the targets by name, saying only that most were in the United States and Europe and included government offices, political parties, energy and law firms, and media organizations.
The Russian embassy in Washington did not immediately respond to the message asking for comment.
Russian officials routinely reject accusations that they employ hackers to spy on rival nations.
United 26165 reached the public spotlight in mid-2018, when a dozen of its members were indicted during Special Prosecutor Robert Mueller’s investigation into Russian interference in the election that brought former President Donald Trump to power. More members of the unit were indicted later that year for allegedly hacking international anti-doping authorities.
The unit has frequently made headlines since then. Last year, she was denounced by US authorities for allegedly using malicious software to break into Linux systems.
Thursday’s joint communiqué was issued by the US National Security Agency, the cyber arm of the country’s Department of Homeland Security, the FBI and the British National Cyber Security Center.
Spy agencies in the US and UK have increasingly devoted themselves to reporting foreign hackers, especially when they supposedly originate from Russia or China.
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