US indicts 12 Russian agents over DNC hack

12 Russian intelligence operatives have been formally accused by the DoJ

Twelve Russian intelligence operatives have been officially charged by the US Department of Justice (DoJ) with hacking the Democratic National Committee (DNC) for the explicit purpose of interfering with the 2016 presidential election.

The indictment marks the first time that the Russian government has been formally accused of playing a role in the hack on the DNC in 2016, and comes just before a major summit between US President Donald Trump and Russian dictator Vladimir Putin.

The indicted individuals are all Russian military officers of various ranks, and work for cyber divisions within GRU, the Russian Ferderation's main foreign intelligence agency. The Russian government has denied all involvement, stating that there is no evidence to link the men to the hacks or to GRU itself.

Trump himself has similarly shrugged off the news, stating that the hacks took place under Obama's leadership, and asking why Obama hadn't "done anything about it".

Obama ejected 35 Russian diplomats from the US and closed two Russian embassies in December 2016.

A number of interesting findings have come to light as a result of the indictment, including that 'Guccifer 2.0' - a hacker pseudonym that fed huge amounts of stolen emails and documents to WikiLeaks - was allegedly a persona used by multiple Russian intelligence officers to try and throw investigators off the scent. The Guccifer persona was also approached by a US congressional candidate looking to obtain dirt on their opponent, and was also confirmed to have corresponded with "a person who was in regular contact with senior members of the presidential campaign of Donald J. Trump".

What practical impact this will have on the accused hackers is unknown. Because the US has no extradition treaty with Russia, Putin is under no obligation to hand them over to US authorities, although law enforcement in other countries will be on the lookout for them.

The news is the latest action linking Russia to US election tampering, part of a wide-ranging series of efforts including a concerted push to spread disinformation via social media - something being investigated in both the UK and US. Twitter recently revealed that Russian bots shared Trump's tweets 500,000 times in the run up to the election.

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