Special Counsel Robert Mueller Indicts 12 Russians for Hacking

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That's the picture that the Justice Department painted in an indictment of 12 Russian intelligence officers for allegedly hacking into Democratic computers - and stealing information from a state election board - during the 2016 USA presidential election.

The inquiry is looking into U.S. intelligence findings if the Russians conspired to favour the election in Trump's victory, and whether any of his campaign associated were involved in the conspiracy.

The charges include conspiracy to commit an offense against the USA, aggravated identity theft and conspiracy to launder money.

In his press conference Rosenstein summarized the charges to the effect that the named Russian defendants stole and released Democratic documents after planting malicious computer codes in the network of the DNC as well as the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee. "This is not a witch hunt and it is certainly not a joke, as Donald Trump has desperately and incorrectly argued in the past", Perez said. Instead it focused on the fact that no Trump campaign officials or Americans were implicated in the new indictment. The group, listed only as Organization 1, responded that they thought Trump had a slim, "no more than 25% chance" of winning against Clinton so they found that conflict between Democratic primary challenger Bernie Sanders and Clinton was more "interesting".

The intrusion into accounts of volunteers and employees of the Clinton campaign began in March 2016, then the DNC and DCCC were hacked.

"The conspirators corresponded with several Americans through the internet". All 12 defendants are members of Russia's intelligence service, according to the court filing.

■ They used false identities as part of their operations, such as "Kate S. Milton", "James McMorgans", and "Karen W. Millen".

■ They staged and released tens of thousands of stolen e-mails and documents.

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Among the hacking conspiracies described by prosecutors, one sticks out for how it attacked Americans regardless of their politics. The indictment also mentions the use of the X-Tunnel malware that was used to securely steal data from infected servers and individuals.

Before Friday, 20 people and three companies had been charged in the Mueller investigation.

A few hours before the indictments were announced, Mr Trump described the Mueller investigation as a "rigged witch hunt" that was hurting the U.S. relationship with Russian Federation.

Rosenstein said he briefed President Donald Trump on the case earlier this week, prior to Trump's scheduled meeting with Putin in Helsinki on Monday.

These operatives allegedly used spearfishing techniques while "acting in their official capacities" to obtain log-in information of their targets with the intent of interfering in the election.

"The last indictment of Russians involved the so-called troll factories and online bot farms that were causing issues on Twitter", said John Bambenek, vice president at security firm ThreatStop Inc.

"Today's charges include no allegations of knowing involvement by anyone on the campaign and no allegations that the alleged hacking affected the election result".