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12 Russian military officers charged with hacking Dems, interfering in 2016 election

Rod Rosenstein (Internet Education Foundation/Flickr)
July 13, 2018

On Friday, the Department of Justice announced indictments against 12 Russian nationals accused of hacking U.S. Democrats’ computer networks.

“The indictment charges 12 Russian military officers by name for conspiring to interfere with the 2016 presidential election,” Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein said in a press conference.

“Eleven of the defendants are charged with conspiring to hack into computers, steal documents, and release those documents with the intent to interfere in the election,” he said. “One of those defendants, and a 12th Russian military officer, are charged with conspiring to infiltrate computers of organizations involved in administering elections, including state boards of election, secretaries of state, and companies that supply software used to administer elections.”

The indictment comes just two days before President Donald Trump is slated to meet with Russian President Vladimir Putin.

The investigation revealed two separate units inside the Russian General Staff known as the GRU.

One unit was said to be responsible for stealing information, while the other unit would disseminate the information.

The first charge described by Rosenstein is conspiracy to access computers without authorization and damage to those computers. A similar charge against two of the hackers specifies access and damage to computers administering elections.

The second charge is aggravated identity theft, as the accused apparently stole usernames and passwords to commit computer fraud.

The third charge is money laundering, after evidence showed the accused transferred cryptocurrencies used to make payments and purchase servers and domains to further hacking efforts.

The hackers also created false identities under which they released stolen emails and other information, while claiming the leaks were carried out by a group of American hackers as well as a lone Romanian hacker.

The indictment also seeks forfeiture of property used in criminal hacking activities.

The investigation did not find any evidence of involvement by a U.S. citizen, nor of any successful effort to affect the vote count or election result.

“There is no allegation in this indictment that any American citizen committed a crime. There is no allegation that the conspiracy changed the vote count or affected any election result,” Rosenstein said.

When questioned on the timing of this indictment relative to the Trump-Putin meeting scheduled to take place in Helsinki on Monday, Rosenstein said the indictment was released today after the investigation yielded enough evidence to present to a federal jury.

Rosenstein said the responsibility for the indictment will be transferred to the Justice Department’s National Security division.