Two Russian nationals, alleged to be working with Russia's Federal Security Service (FSB), have been indicted by a San Francisco-based federal grand jury. The charges come in the wake of accusations that the so-called "Callisto Group" hacked into computer networks across the US, UK, NATO member countries, and Ukraine. The pair have been accused of using these compromised networks to help conduct foreign malign influence operations aimed at disrupting the UK's 2019 elections, according to a Justice Department statement.
A grand jury in the Northern District of California has charged two individuals working on behalf of Russia’s state intelligence service with conducting a sophisticated hacking campaign targeting the United States, our @NATO allies, and Ukraine. https://t.co/vBACoWU0LR— U.S. Attorney NorCal (@USAO_NDCA) December 7, 2023
Assistant Attorney General Matthew G. Olsen highlighted the persistent threat, stating, "The Russian government continues to target the critical networks of the United States and our partners, as highlighted by the indictment unsealed today." The complex spear phishing campaign allegedly carried out by Ruslan Aleksandrovich Peretyatko and Andrey Stanislavovich Korinets was designed to not only gain unauthorized access but to also persist in victims' computers and email accounts.
U.S. Attorney Ismail J. Ramsey drew attention to the concerted international response this indictment represents, saying, "Today’s indictment is part of a coordinated international response to send a message to the conspirators that the whole of the United States government stands together and with our partners internationally to identify and disrupt cyber espionage actors." The "Callisto Group" has become infamous for targeting government and military officials, journalists, researchers, and even ex-employees of the U.S. Intelligence Community and Department of Defense.
Per the indictment details, these Russian operatives allegedly used various deceptive tactics to trick victims into handing over their credentials. Once inside the network, they had the ability to freely access victims' email accounts. Assistant Director Bryan Vorndran of the FBI’s Cyber Division has mentioned the FBI's dedication to combating these Russian threats and said, "Russian interference through malign foreign influence campaigns is deplorable, and we will not tolerate it in the United States or directed against our foreign partners." Moreover, both Peretyatko and Korinets now find themselves on the wrong side of sanctions imposed by the Department of the Treasury's Office of Foreign Assets Control (OFAC) and are also the subjects of significant rewards offered by the U.S. Department of State for information leading to their capture.
Each defendant faces charges that carry substantial prison times—but it's all hypothetically for now, as the defendants have yet to be apprehended, and they remain presumed innocent until proven guilty in a court of law.