U.S. Law Enforcement Charges Russian Nationals In Global Energy Hacking Scheme

The Department of Justice unsealed charges brought against four Russian nationals who are accused of working for the Russian government while simultaneously attempting to hack into the online infrastructure of the global energy sector.

In two indictments, the defendants are accused of hacking thousands of computers across hundreds of companies and firms in 135 individual countries participating within the energy industry.

“Russian state-sponsored hackers pose a serious and persistent threat to critical infrastructure both in the United States and around the world,” said Deputy Attorney General Lisa O. Monaco. “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.”

The prosecutors allege that three officers of Russia’s Federal Security Service and other co-conspirators targeted software systems in the global energy sector to give the Russian government the ability to compromise the overall industry.

One indictment alleges that Pavel Aleksandrovich Akulov, 36, Mikhail Mikhailovich Gavrilov, 42, and Marat Valeryevich Tyukov, 39, of engaging in a two-part hacking attempt to further the Russian state agenda, targeting international oil and gas companies between 2012 and 2017. They allegedly targeted hardware and software devices that control power generation equipment. 

The hacking infected legitimate software updates with malware to provide a “backdoor” entrance for hackers to access infected networks. 

The second phase involved targeting individuals and engineers with spearphishing attacks—some of which were successful—and infecting sites commonly visited by energy sector engineers with malware.

The defendants are charged with conspiracy to cause damage to the property of an energy facility and commit computer fraud and abuse, and conspiracy to commit wire fraud. Akulov and Gavrilov are also charged with multiple counts of wire fraud and illegally obtaining information stored on computer networks. Akulov and Gavrilov also face three counts of aggravated identity theft.

In the second indictment, Evgeny Viktorovich Gladkikh, 36, is accused of…