Security researchers at the time quickly blamed Fancy Bear for the hack-and-dump.
But unlike the Russian work in the 2016 American election, the French operation mixed genuine documents with altered material. The French news media largely ignored the stolen documents, in part because of questions of their authenticity, but also because France was in a government-mandated blackout period immediately before the vote.
American officials have warned that Russia could repeat those tactics in the presidential race in the United States this year, mixing falsified material with real stolen documents in a way that is difficult to tell fact from fiction.
The indictments showed how the hacking unit became emboldened after its success interfering in the 2016 American election, despite the resulting furor and the Obama administration’s decision to punish and publicly rebuke Russia for its role.
“If you were under the impression that, after 2016, they hung it up and gave up their aggressive behavior, the fact they hacked the Olympics should disabuse you of that notion,” said John Hultquist, the director of threat intelligence at FireEye, the Silicon Valley cybersecurity firm. “It was a vindictive attack. There was no clear geopolitical reason to do that. And it impacted the entire international community.”
The 2018 hack of the Pyeongchang Olympics, which took out internet access and telecasts, grounded broadcasters’ drones, shut down Olympics websites and prevented spectators from attending the opening ceremony.
At the time, security experts named the attack Sour Grapes because they believed it was conducted by Russians out of spite for the Olympic Committee banning its athletes from participating in the Games after systemic violations of antidoping rules.
The suspects were also responsible for developing malware used in two attacks on Ukraine’s power grid, according to the court documents. The first attack, on Dec. 23, 2015, infiltrated Ukrainian energy companies, cutting power for hours to over 200,000 residents in the country’s west.