Christopher Wray, Trump’s newest FBI Director, had warned that adversarial governments are actively collaborating with criminal organizations to carry out the cyberattacks against the United States, and US companies.
Wray had said that the indictment of a Canadian national who had pleaded guilty on Tuesday to help the Russian spies hack into the Yahoo email accounts reflected “one of the more dangerous, emerging threats” facing the United States today, and is known in the intelligence community as a “blended threat.”
“We are seeing an emergence of that kind of collaboration,” Wray had testified before the House Homeland Security Committee, noting that until very recently governments and criminals had worked separately. “Now there’s this collusion, if you will, that’s occurring on a number of instances … like mercenaries being used to commit cyber-attacks.”
The Justice Department also announced charges in March against Karim Baratov, a 22-year-old Canadian citizen, and three other men with him, including two officers of Russia’s Federal Security Service, or FSB, for their involvement in the 2014 hack into Yahoo that had affected around 500 million accounts.
The U.S. law enforcement officials have said that Baratov, who they dubbed as a “hacker-for-hire,” acknowledged breaking into these email accounts and selling the passwords to an agent of the FSB, a Russian intelligence agency.
The individuals who were targeted included Russian officials, a European diplomat, a former economic minister from one of the neighboring country, and a prominent banker.
The case confirmed the longstanding suspicions that Russia’s government is used to hiring the non-government hackers and uses them as spy services to facilitate criminal activity in addition to conducting espionage.
Wray, who President Donald Trump had handpicked to replace the ousted FBI Director James Comey in June this year, had said that Russia is attempting to assert its dominance in the world by relying on asymmetric warfare to “damage and weaken” the United States.
To combat this threat, Wray said that he has set up a “foreign influence task force” within the bureau which is made up of different divisions, including the counterintelligence, cyber, and criminal investigation. He further said that the agency would also coordinate closely with the Department of Homeland Security, which is charged with the overseeing critical election infrastructure, to prevent more cyber attacks.