The Cable

Is Russia Responsible for a Cyber Attack Against the OSCE?

The OSCE confirms it was the victim of a cyber attack, but does not want to speculate as to the perpetrator.


The Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe, a rights watchdog that for more than two years has monitored the ground war between Ukrainian forces and Russian-backed separatists, acknowledged Wednesday it had been hacked. The likely culprit, according to Le Monde: Russia.

The OSCE confirmed to Reuters that it became aware of the attack in November. It rectified the situation through “entirely new security systems and passwords.” It confirmed the hack after the Le Monde report, in which an unnamed source suggested that Russian group APT 28 was responsible.

APT 28 is better known in the United States as Fancy Bear, which investigators believe was also behind the hacks against Democratic Party leadership during this year’s American presidential election. Fancy Bear is believed to be directed by Russian military intelligence, or GRU. U.S. President-elect Donald Trump continues to doubt Russia’s role in the Nov. 8 vote, and says he won the election fairly.

Le Monde noted the cyber attack against the OSCE follows hacks against Hillary Clinton’s presidential campaign and France’s TV5 Monde. It also comes amid fears that Russian cyber fiends will hack German elections to the detriment of German Chancellor Angela Merkel, who is up for re-election.

The OSCE cannot, however, say for certain that Russian hackers were responsible. The spokesperson who confirmed the attack to the OSCE told Reuters the OSCE does not “have the capacity to conduct such an investigation and we don’t want to speculate.”

OSCE aside, Russia has been busy. On Wednesday, it was also reported that Russia and Turkey had come to an agreement for a ceasefire in Syria, although Moscow has not confirmed the deal, and it is unclear if rebel forces are aware of what the agreement actually says. If successful, they will then bring regime and opposition leaders alike to talks in Kazakhstan.

Also on Wednesday, Russia clarified reports from a day earlier that officials had admitted Moscow had run a doping program for its Olympic athletes. Such stories took comments out of context, officials said, as the the person who made the admission was merely reading the wording of an earlier report accusing Russia of having such a program. A Kremlin spokesperson noted Russia has always denied the existence of a state doping program.

Photo credit: JOHN MACDOUGALL/AFP/Getty Images

Emily Tamkin is the U.S. editor of the New Statesman and the author of The Influence of Soros, published July 2020. Twitter: @emilyctamkin

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