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DOJ: Russian Hackers Attempted to Hack Kansas Nuclear Plant

According to the U.S. Department of Justice, Russia-backed hackers had their sights set on a nuclear power plant in Kansas as part of a plot to take control of critical infrastructure.

Russian cyber attack - use once only
The agents are accused of computer fraud, wire fraud, identity theft and causing damage to the property of an energy facility.
(TNS) — A nuclear power plant in eastern Kansas was one target of computer hackers organized by Russia's spy agency as part of a large-scale international operation to seize control over critical infrastructure assets in the U.S., the Department of Justice alleged in an indictment unsealed Thursday.

Three agents with Russia's Federal Security Service — Pavel Akulov, Mikhail Gavrilov and Marat Tyukov — face charges in the U.S. District of Kansas after a federal grand jury was convened last summer in Kansas City, Kansas. The agents are accused of computer fraud, wire fraud, identity theft and causing damage to the property of an energy facility.

The Wolf Creek Nuclear Operating Corporation, based in Burlington, is named in the indictment as one of hundreds of U.S. energy sector operations targeted by Russian intelligence. Through their efforts, the agents allegedly used a spearphishing method to compromise the company's computer systems in which they sent emails while posing as employees.

Between 2012 and 2017, the three Russian agents were allegedly part of a military unit that intruded computers and attacked supply chains. The conspiracy involved targeting software and hardware that controls power facility equipment, according to the indictment, and involved putting malware into software updates and other methods.

More than 17,000 unique devices in the U.S. and abroad installed the malware, the indictment says, creating backdoors that allowed hackers to scan the networks for more potential victims.

According to the Justice Department, the conspiracy occurred between 2012 through 2018 and targeted more than 135 countries with a hacking campaign directed at the global energy sector. The alleged aim was to give the Russian government access to computer systems that would have allowed the ability to disrupt or damage those systems.

"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 O. Monaco said in a statement Thursday. "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."

©2022 The Kansas City Star. Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.