Western countries launch joint crackdown against Russian Federation over global cyberattacks

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"It's unclear who is supposed to believe these statements accusing Russian citizens of attempting to mount cyber-attacks against the OPCW and trying to obtain data related to the Malaysian flight MH17, as if it is necessary to be near the target of your attack", Moscow said in a statement.

Prosecutors say the Russians also targeted a Pennsylvania-based nuclear energy company and an worldwide organisation that was investigating chemical weapons in Syria and the poisoning of a former GRU officer. Dutch officials said it was not clear if the cyber operation was linked to that.

The UK joined with the Netherlands in accusing Russian Federation of sending agents with wifi antennas to The Hague to try to hack into the Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW).

"Nations like Russian Federation and others that engage in malicious and norm-shattering cyber and influence activities should understand the continuing and steadfast resolve of the United States and its allies to prevent, disrupt and deter such unaccountable conduct", Mr. Demers told a news conference.

The West appeared to have made a coordinated response to the alleged Russian hacking, with North Atlantic Treaty Organisation chief Jens Stoltenberg separately warning Russia to halt its "reckless" behaviour and the European Union condemning "aggressive" Russian spying.

"Russia must stop its reckless pattern of behaviour, including the use of force against its neighbours, attempted interference in election processes, and widespread disinformation campaigns".

Russian Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Maria Zakharova dismissed the new accusations Thursday, calling them "big fantasies".

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The Russians had originally taken a taxi from a GRU base in Moscow to the airport, for which Dutch agents later found a receipt from their hotel. And their allies around the world issued stark assessments of what they described as a campaign of hacking by Russia's GRU military intelligence agency.

Russian military intelligence "is active here in the Netherlands. where a lot of global organisations are (based)", Eichelsheim said.

The Russians then on April 13 set up in the Marriott Hotel next door to the OPCW and took photos, while parking the vehicle at the hotel with the boot facing the OPCW, he said.

Reports suggest four GRU officers set up hacking equipment in the boot of a vehicle parked in the OPCW's offices in The Hague.

Dutch agents then swooped on the men.

It said they affected people in many countries and cost national economies millions of pounds.

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"We worked closely with our global partners to identify the actors and disrupt their criminal campaign - and today, we are sending this message: The FBI will not permit any government, group, or individual to threaten our people, our country, or our partners. It was a successful operation".

When the men were intercepted they tried to destroy one of the mobile phones they were carrying, Maj Gen Eichelsheim said.

US Defense Secretary Jim Mattis, at a news conference in the Belgian capital, said Russian Federation must pay a price, and a number of response options were available. GRU operatives are also said to be behind the attempted hacking of the World Anti-Doping Agency in Switzerland a year ago.

An announcement by the United Kingdom National Cyber Security Centre (NCSC) has also identified other bad actors and hacking groups that are associated with GRU operatives.

The U.S. Department of Justice has filed charges against seven Russian intelligence officers for hacking various organizations to steal sensitive and embarrassing information, authorities said Thursday.

Batches of DNC emails were later published by WikiLeaks.

According to USA investigators, agents from the GRU's Unit 26165 broke into the Democratic National Committee's emails, wreaking havoc during the 2016 United States presidential election.

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