Hackers in a military unit of a Russian spy agency are accused of cybercrimes targeting a nuclear power plant in Kansas five years ago.
Russian military officers Pavel Aleksandrovich Akulov, Mikhail Mikhailovich Gavrilov and Marat Valeryevich Tyukov are charged with a combined 20 counts alleging conspiracy, computer fraud, wire fraud and identity theft.
All three work for the Federal Security Service, also known as the FSB, which is a domestic intelligence agency with close ties to President Vladimir Putin. The FSB officers worked for a discrete operational unit within Center 16, which is also known as Military Unit 71330.
The 36-page grand jury indictment, filed Aug. 26, 2021 in U.S. District Court in Kansas City, Kan., was unsealed Thursday. The Federal Bureau of Investigation and federal prosecutors summarized the allegations in a news release.
“Russian state-sponsored hackers pose a serious and persistent threat to critical infrastructure both in the United States and around the world,” Deputy Attorney General Lisa Monaco said. “Although the criminal charges unsealed today reflect past activity, they make crystal clear the urgent ongoing need for American businesses to harden their defenses and remain vigilant.”
Hackers wanted access to U.S. energy sector network
The goal of the hackers was to establish and maintain unauthorized access to computers and networks in the U.S. energy sector, enabling the Russian government to disrupt and damage the systems. They targeted hundreds of companies between 2012 and 2017.
The indictment alleges the three military officers were part of a team that specifically targeted the software and hardware that controls equipment in power generation facilities.
The list of victims includes the Nuclear Regulatory Commission; Wolf Creek Nuclear Operating Corporation in Burlington; Westar Energy, the Topeka-based predecessor to utility company Evergy; and the Kansas Electric Power Cooperative.
Wolf Creek, Evergy and the Kansas Electric Power Cooperative all “cooperated and provided invaluable assistance in the investigation,” the Department of…