Hackers weren’t just out to cause mischief at the 2018 Winter Olympics.
Officials in the U.S. now believe Russian spies to be the source of a Feb. 9 hack that occurred during the event’s opening ceremony. More troublingly, the perpetrators of the hack apparently tried to make it look as though it was all the work of North Korean agents.
A Saturday report from the Washington Post notes that analysts believe the hack was a retaliatory action against the International Olympic Committee.
In Dec. 2017, the IOC formally suspended the Russian Olympic Committee from participating in the following year’s Winter Olympics events. Russian athletes with no previous drug violations and a history of submitting to testing were allowed to compete under the “Olympic Athletes of Russia” (OAR) banner, but their home country’s flag and national anthem were banned.
Russia has a long and problematic history with Olympic bans. Catch yourself up right here.
The Saturday WaPo report doesn’t get into the specifics of how GRU operatives — GRU is Russia’s CIA equivalent — went about making the hack seem like North Korea’s work. But it does note that GRU “had access to as many as 300 Olympic-related computers” as of early February.
In addition, officials also believe GRU agents hacked routers in South Korea sometime in January, installing malware that could then be exploited as the Winter Games kicked off in early February. This could explain some of the disruptions that occurred on Feb. 9.
While it’s important to note that all of this information is attributed to anonymous U.S. officials, there is a history here. After Russia’s track-and-field team was banned from the 2016 Olympics, Russian hackers — from the GRU, according to WaPo — stole drug test results and medical records belonging to a number of notable U.S. athletes.
The data included confidential information about Simone Biles, Serena and Venus Williams, and women’s basketball star Elena Delle Donne. It was later released by Fancy Bear, the Russian government-connected hacker group that is believed to have been played a role in a number of significant cyberattacks, notably including the 2016 hack of the Democratic National Committee.