FBI dismantles Russian malware network targeting allies and journalists

The US Justice Department has announced the successful disruption of a Russian government-controlled malware network that had compromised hundreds of computers belonging to NATO-member governments and other Russian targets of interest, including journalists. The operation, called Operation Medusa, was able to take the malware, codenamed Snake, offline on or about May 8. The malware was developed and deployed by a unit within Russia's Federal Security Bureau, called Turla, as far back as 2004. The unit used the malware to selectively target high-value devices used by allied foreign ministries and governments and was able to record every keystroke a victim made, including keylogging, and send it back to Turla's control center.

The Justice Department cited Snake's status as Russia's "premier long-term cyberespionage malware" and the disruption was part of an effort by U.S. law enforcement to protect victims around the world. The software was also able to snoop and compromise a victim's Internet activity, inserting itself into the data that a victim's computer sent online. Turla's malware was able to operate effectively undetected by victims for nearly two decades, even as federal law enforcement monitored and pursued the Russian intelligence unit behind Snake.

Federal researchers and counterintelligence agents were able to reverse-engineer Snake and build software that would disable the malware. The software was codenamed Perseus and was deployed in a synchronized operation earlier this week with the cooperation of other foreign governments. The Deputy Attorney General, Lisa Monaco, stated that "Through a high-tech operation that turned Russian malware against itself, U.S. law enforcement has neutralized one of Russia's most sophisticated cyber-espionage tools, used for two decades to advance Russia's authoritarian objectives." Attorney General Merrick Garland also stated that they will continue to strengthen their collective defenses against the Russian regime's destabilizing efforts to undermine the security of the United States and their allies.


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