Washington wants to track down Russian intelligence officers who in 2017 attacked key infrastructure in their country and crippled Ukraine’s digital connectivity
In 1989, the collapse of the USSR put an end to more than 44 years of Cold War. Since then, however, that enmity between the United States and Russia, heir to the Soviet collapse, has also been waged unofficially in cyberspace. This Tuesday, the U.S. State Department put on the table a reward of up to $10 million for information on six Russian hackers responsible for cyberattacks against critical infrastructures in the country.
They are Yuriy Sergeyevich, Sergey Vladimirovich, Pavel Valeryevich, Anatoliy Sergeyevich, Artem Valeryevich and Petr Nikolayevich. These six individuals, in the FBI’s view, are officers of what is known as Unit 74455, the cyber militia of the Main Intelligence Directorate (GRU), the Russian military intelligence services.
All of them would have been behind a capital cyber aggression that, in 2017, infected the digital services of different US companies and entities, including a pharmaceutical manufacturer and a hospital in Pennsylvania. The attack caused nearly $1 billion in total losses.
That cyberattack went far beyond the US. Known as NotPetya, the Russian intelligence operation was primarily aimed at crippling Ukraine’s IT infrastructure. To do so, they used a ‘ransomware’ virus, that is, a malicious program that infects the system of its victims and hijacks essential private information that blocks its operation and then demands ransoms. The attack allowed the Kremlin to strike a blow against Ukraine at a time of hybrid warfare between the two countries. However, in cyberspace there are no borders and the virus spread, paralyzing computers in countries such as Spain, France, Germany and Italy, among others. Even today, Russia denies any involvement in the incident.
In October 2020, the US charged this group of Russian cyber-militaries with “conspiracy to commit computer fraud and abuse, conspiracy to commit wire fraud, wire fraud, damage to protected computers and aggravated identity theft”. Since then, U.S. authorities have been unable to locate and extradite them to bring them to justice, so they are asking for the public’s help under the $10 million reward.