Russian Spies Responsible for Skripal Attack Impersonate Journalists
The Russian Military Intelligence unit, GRU, has a history of assassinating both journalists and Putin adversaries, yet they appear to have failed on both fronts this time.
In a failed ‘honey trap’ operation, the same Russian spies responsible for the attempted murder of Sergei Skripal impersonated two female UK Telegraph journalists in an attempt to hack into the investigation into the nerve agent attack in Salisbury.
GRU officers created fake email accounts for Katie Morley and Helen Russell in an attempt to penetrate computer systems at Porton Down chemical weapons research laboratory and the Foreign Office.
The Russians used a tried and true method…use young, attractive, women to ensnare their targets. Emails using the women’s identity were sent to male employees at the Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW) who they hoped would respond to the messages.
Why target these individuals? The OPCW was working with UK authorities to determine what substance was used in the attack on Skripal.
In one of the emails sent to the OPCW, with the subject heading “SALISBURY SPY
POISONING INVESTIGATION”, it states: “Greetings! My name is Katie
Morley, I represent the Telegraph newspaper. Our team has carried out an
independent investigation into Salisbury spy poisoning case.
“We have interviewed one of the witnesses and ascertained previously unknown
facts that may help the investigation. Before the materials are
published, we would like to consult and discuss the option of
cooperation with you.” The email concludes with the sign off: “Kind
regards, Katie Morley, The Telegraph Journalist.”
The email contained an attachment and invited the OPCW recipient to click
on it. It didn’t work.
Intelligence services believe the hack was ordered on the command of
Vladimir Putin, who was surprised at the global response to his attempt to murder a former GRU officer in the UK.
The cyber attack was carried out by GRU unit 74455. The
unit had many other targets: the 2018 Winter Olympics in South Korea;
this year’s Tokyo Olympics until it was postponed; the 2017 French
presidential elections; institutions in Ukraine and Georgia; and a US
pharmaceutical company and American hospitals. The malware attacks
caused about $1,339 billion in losses.
The Kremlin is desperate to cover its tracks across Europe as country leaders are starting to push back on the blatant disregard by Russia for its citizens.