The Callisto Group allegedly engaged in phishing campaigns.
The Justice Department on Thursday announced charges against two Russian intelligence officers for their alleged involvement in a global hacking campaign that targeted military and government officials in the United States, the United Kingdom, Ukraine and NATO member states.
Ruslan Alexandrovich Berityatko and Andrey Stanislavovich Korenets allegedly led the so-called “Callisto Group” that engaged in phishing campaigns to gain sustained access to a group of victims between 2016 and 2022 – which included current and former employees of the company. U.S. Intelligence Community, Department of Defense, State Department, defense contractors, and Department of Energy facilities.
The indictment alleges that the group also targeted UK military and government officials, as well as journalists in operations designed to influence the country’s 2019 elections.
Each of the men is charged with one count of conspiracy to gain unauthorized access to steal information from computers. Although there is no claim that they took destructive actions with any of the computers, officials said that they sent malicious code when accessing them that could have affected some of their data.
The officials highlighted that the two officers were allegedly from the 18th Center of the Russian Federal Security Service, the Russian counterpart to the FBI in combating cybercrime.
Prosecutors say the group would use “spoofed” email accounts designed to look like personal and business accounts that victims typically interact with in order to get them to provide account login details that they would then use to gain ongoing access to their systems. They will also send emails that appear to be from email service providers indicating that users are violating their terms of service.
In the case of alleged British election interference, prosecutors say the Callisto group leaked information from several of its victims to the press in Russia and the United Kingdom.
It is not immediately clear how many victims they were able to successfully target or the scope of the information that was compromised.
While the two men are not in US custody and are unlikely to be extradited by the Russian government, the US Treasury said it had imposed sanctions on them over their alleged roles in leading the group. The US State Department is offering rewards of up to $10 million for information leading to their arrest.
The United Kingdom announced its own sanctions and summoned Russia’s ambassador to “make clear” that actions related to election interference allegations are unacceptable and that future similar efforts will lead to “further consequences,” officials said Thursday.
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