For years, the hacking unit inside Russia’s GRU army intelligence company often known as Sandworm has carried out a number of the worst cyberattacks in historical past—blackouts, fake ransomware, data-destroying worms—from behind a fastidiously maintained veil of anonymity. However after half a decade of the spy company’s botched operations, blown cowl tales, and worldwide indictments, maybe it is no shock that pulling the masks off the person main that extremely harmful hacking group at the moment reveals a well-known face.
The commander of Sandworm, the infamous division of the company’s hacking forces chargeable for lots of the GRU’s most aggressive campaigns of cyberwar and sabotage, is now an official named Evgenii Serebriakov, in keeping with sources from a Western intelligence service who spoke to WIRED on the situation of anonymity. If that title rings a bell, it could be as a result of Serebriakov was indicted, together with six different GRU brokers, after being caught within the midst of a close-range cyberespionage operation in the Netherlands in 2018 that focused the Group for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons within the Hague.
In that foiled operation, Dutch legislation enforcement did not simply establish and arrest Serebriakov and his staff, who have been a part of a distinct GRU unit generally called Fancy Bear or APT28. Additionally they seized Serebriakov’s backpack filled with technical gear, in addition to his laptop computer and different hacking gadgets in his staff’s rental automotive. In consequence, Dutch and US investigators have been in a position to piece collectively Serebriakov’s travels and previous operations stretching again years and, given his newer position, now know in uncommon element the profession historical past of a rising GRU official.
In line with the intelligence service sources, Serebriakov was positioned accountable for Sandworm within the spring of 2022 after serving as deputy commander of APT28, and now holds the rank of colonel. Christo Grozev, the lead Russia-focused investigator for open supply intelligence outlet Bellingcat, has additionally famous Serebriakov’s rise: Round 2020, Grozev says, Serebriakov started receiving telephone calls from GRU generals who, within the company’s strict hierarchy, solely communicate to higher-level officers. Grozev, who says he purchased the telephone knowledge from a Russian black market supply, says he additionally noticed the GRU agent’s quantity seem within the telephone information of one other highly effective army unit targeted on counterintelligence. “I spotted he should be in a command place,” says Grozev. “He cannot simply be an everyday hacker anymore.”
The truth that Serebriakov seems to have attained that place regardless of having been beforehand recognized and indicted within the failed Netherlands operation means that he should have important worth to the GRU—that he is “apparently too good to dump,” Grozev provides.
Serebriakov’s new place main Sandworm—formally GRU Unit 74455 but in addition recognized by the nicknames Voodoo Bear and Iridium—places him accountable for a gaggle of hackers who’re maybe the world’s most prolific practitioners of cyberwar. (They’ve additionally dabbled in espionage and disinformation campaigns.) Since 2015, Sandworm has led the Russian authorities’s unprecedented marketing campaign of cyberattacks on Ukraine: It penetrated electrical utilities in western Ukraine and Kyiv to cause the first- and second-ever blackouts triggered by hackers and focused Ukrainian authorities businesses, banks, and media with numerous data-destructive malware operations. In 2017, Sandworm launched NotPetya, a piece of self-replicating code that spread to networks worldwide and inflicted a record $10 billion in damage. Sandworm then went on to sabotage the 2018 Winter Olympics in Korea and assault TV broadcasters within the nation of Georgia in 2019, a surprising report of reckless hacking.