NEWS
04/10/2018 18:27 BST | Updated 04/10/2018 18:54 BST

7 Scarcely Believable Blunders Russia Made When Trying To Hack Basically Everyone

Necking cans of Heineken while on the job...

Western countries issued coordinated denunciations of Russia on Thursday for running what they described as computer hacking programmes to undermine democracies, targeting institutions from sports anti-doping bodies to the chemical weapons watchdog.

In some of the strongest language aimed at Moscow since the Cold War, Britain said Russia had become a “pariah state”. 

Russia denied what its Foreign Ministry spokeswoman called a “diabolical perfume cocktail” of allegations dreamt up by someone with a “rich imagination”. 

But looking at the evidence, the litany of blunders made by the Russian secret service cell codenamed AP28 actually leaves very little to the imagination.

1) THE PASSPORT NUMBERS

The Netherlands released copies of passports of the four men, which identified them as Alexey Minin, Oleg Sotnikov, Evgenii Serebriakov and Aleksei Morenets, all in their 30s or 40s.

The four men constituted a cell of Russian military intelligence (GRU), one of the country’s most secretive agencies.

One of the more intriguing aspects regards the numbers of two of the documents.

The top two in the picture below are numbered 0135555 and 0135556 meaning they were issued at the same time - almost as if they were produced specially for some kind of specific ... mission.

The passports of the four Russian agents.

Presumably UK and Dutch authorities are already looking into which Russian citizens have been issued with passport numbers immediately before and after these as there’s a high possibility they are also GRU agents. 

This is also the case with the passports issued to the two men accused of poisoning Sergei Skripal with Novichok (separated by only three digits -1294 and -1297) and appears to be an incredibly shoddy lapse by Russian intelligence, one they have made repeatedly.

2) THE STING

When apprehended, rather than act cool and nonchalant, the GRU men threw their phones on the floor and stamped on them, which are not the actions normally associated with innocent people.

3) THE TAXI RECEIPTS 

Even spies need to claim expenses, which is presumably why the four GRU men were found with a number of taxi receipts.

One of these was from the GRU barracks to Moscow airport.

Dutch Defense Ministry
Rather incriminating.

As if that wasn’t incriminating enough, there were also Google Maps printouts, train tickets and web searches that provided a detailed log of the Russian operatives’ journeys.

4) THE HEINEKEN

Spying can be stressful work so you can’t really blame the poor chaps for indulging in the odd beverage.

5) THE TIMING

The Russians were caught red-handed trying to hack into the Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW) headquarters on April 13.

At this time the OPCW was investigating two notable incidents - the poisoning of Sergei Skripal and the alleged chemical weapons attack in Douma, Syria. Both cases are tied to Russia.

As already noted, Russian GRU agents are the prime suspects in the Skripal poisoning.

As for the Douma incident, the Syrian Government is a close ally of Russia. The two have been fighting alongside each other in the ongoing Syrian conflict since 2015.

The Syrian Government has been implicated in numerous chemical weapons attacks which have on two occasions prompted limited retaliation from western governments.

The OPCW has yet to release its findings on the Douma incident.

6) THE OTHER TARGETS

The full list of organisations targeted by the GRU cell is essentially a complete list of notorious international incidents the Kremlin has denied any role in.

As well as the body investigating Douma and Salisbury, there is:

And as announced earlier in the day, the GRU also hacked Russia’s central bank, and two privately-owned Russian media outlets,

The United States later indicted seven suspected Russian agents for conspiring to hack computers and steal data to delegitimise international anti-doping organisations and punish officials who had revealed the Russian state-sponsored athlete doping programme.

The passports of the four Russian agents.

7) THE FOOTBALL TEAM

Following today’s announcement, The Moscow Times spoke to someone who played on the same Moscow league football team as one of the agents identified.

Yan Yershov, 25, said team was known “security service team”. He said: “Yes he played for us for a few years and was a decent player.

“It was widely known that he was one of those guys, some sort of government agent.”

AND FINALLY...

We finish with a blunder by the Western agencies conducting investigation.

Asked why the GRU team was allowed to go back to Russia, a Whitehall official said: “That was a decision taken by the Dutch authorities and that’s a question that needs to be addressed to the Dutch authorities.

“The individuals were traveling on diplomatic passports.”