The Department of Justice announced that the FBI has taken down an online botnet that they believe was operated by Russian military intelligence to prepare for a cyber-attack against the United States.

On Wednesday, Attorney General Merrick Garland revealed that the FBI together with international partners took down a botnet network of thousands of internet-connected devices that he said was being operated by Russia's GRU, the country's military espionage agency with a long track record of conducting daring cyber attacks.

The network relied on malicious code previously identified by the FBI and British cyber agencies as belonging to the GRU that targeted the firewall hardware of WatchGuard Technologies, a network security vendor that worked with many small and medium-sized businesses. After identifying the botnet as a possible vector for distributed denial of service (DDoS) or other malicious cyber attacks, the FBI moved in to lock the Russians out of the devices.

“Through close collaboration with WatchGuard and our law enforcement partners, we identified, disrupted and exposed yet another example of the Russian GRU’s hacking of innocent victims in the United States and around the world,” said U.S. Attorney Cindy K. Chung for the Western District of Pennsylvania, whose office contributed to the takedown.

This action was announced alongside other actions taken by the DOJ against Russian actors on Wednesday.

One of them was an indictment against Russian oligarch Konstantin Malofeev for moves to violate U.S. sanctions. Malofeev, who was sanctioned by the U.S. Treasury in 2014, was charged for operating a scheme to move $10 million from a Texas bank to a business associate in Greece.

Deputy Attorney General Lisa Monaco added that the U.S. cooperated with German law enforcement to disrupt the world’s largest darknet marketplace called Hydra and indicted a Russian citizen for maintaining the computer servers that supported it.

"Our message to those who continue to enable the Russian regime through their criminal conduct is this: It does not matter how far you sail your yacht, it does not matter how well you conceal your assets, it does not matter how cleverly you write your malware or hide your online activity," Garland said at the press conference.

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