Fancy Bear doping hackers ‘were Russian military intelligence’

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The UK government has accused Russia’s military intelligence service of being behind four high-profile cyber-attacks.

The National Cyber Security Centre says targets included firms in Russia and Ukraine; the US Democratic Party; and a small TV network in the UK.

A Russian foreign ministry spokeswoman described the accusation as a “rich fantasy of our colleagues from Britain”.

World Anti-Doping Agency computers are also said to have been attacked.

Files later emerged showing how British cyclists Sir Bradley Wiggins and Chris Froome had used banned substances for legitimate medical reasons.

At the time, some of the attacks were linked to Russia – but this is the first time the UK has singled out the GRU, the Russian military intelligence service.

British police think the men who carried out the Salisbury poisoning in March worked for the same group.

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Speaking on behalf of the Russian foreign ministry, Maria Zakharova said the UK’s accusations were “mixed in one perfume bottle”, adding: “Maybe a Nina Ricci bottle: GRU, WADA, Kremlin hackers – it’s a diabolical perfume.”

But Defence Minister Gavin Williamson condemned Russia as a “pariah state”, and said Moscow’s “reckless and indiscriminate” attacks had left it isolated in the international community.

The NCSC said it has assessed “with high confidence” that the GRU was “almost certainly responsible” for the cyber-attacks.

Foreign Secretary Jeremy Hunt said the GRU had waged a campaign of “indiscriminate and reckless” cyber strikes that served “no legitimate national security interest”.

Cyber security consultant Andrew Tsonchev said individuals can get “caught up” in the attacks.

He said: “The more obvious and urgent effect that people need to be aware of is that the services they use – the essential services – are at risk and are actively being targeted for sabotage.”

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What is the GRU accused of?

The NCSC says hackers from the GRU, operating under a dozen different names – including Fancy Bear – targeted:

  • The systems database of the Montreal-based World Anti-Doping Agency (Wada), using phishing to gain passwords. Athletes’ data was later published
  • The Democratic National Committee in 2016, when emails and chats were obtained and subsequently published online. The US authorities have already linked this to Russia
  • Ukraine’s Kyiv metro and Odessa airport, Russia’s central bank, and two privately-owned Russian media outlets – and news agency Interfax – in October 2017. They used ransomware to encrypt the contents of a computer and demand payment
  • An unnamed small UK-based TV station between July and August 2015, when multiple email accounts were accessed and content stolen

Media captionWhat do we know about the Russian intelligence organisation, the GRU?

Former UK diplomat Lord Ricketts said it was likely the Russians targeted Wada “to distract from the very serious allegations about Russian athletes”, and targeted the Ukraine as they were trying to “destabilise” the region.

But he added other attacks seemed random and might have been part of a “pilot project” to “see what they can do at a point where they wanted to use” cyber warfare.

What has the UK government said?

“The GRU’s actions are reckless and indiscriminate: they try to undermine and interfere in elections in other countries; they are even prepared to damage Russian companies and Russian citizens,” said Foreign Secretary Jeremy Hunt.

“This pattern of behaviour demonstrates their desire to operate without regard to international law or established norms and to do so with a feeling of impunity and without consequences.

“Our message is clear: together with our allies, we will expose and respond to the GRU’s attempts to undermine international stability.”

Lord Ricketts believes rather than the UK participating in an offensive cyber counterattack, the government should continue targeting “dodgy Russian money” with economic sanctions.


By Gordon Corera, BBC security correspondent

Today’s statement is part of a drive by Britain to keep the pressure on the Russian state and specifically on Russia’s military intelligence outfit – the GRU.

Some of these cyber-attacks had been previously attributed by private sector researchers to Russia. Britain had also attributed other cyber-attacks to Russia.

But for the first time British intelligence has singled out the GRU – and not just the Russian state – as specifically responsible for a series of events which hit a wide range of targets.

The statement also collates the range of names that have been publicly linked to the GRU by different security researchers.

Some are well known, like Fancy Bear, and others less well known. The British statement puts them all together in one place and confirms that in the view of British intelligence they all belong to the GRU.

Do other countries carry out cyber attacks?

Russia is not the only state to have been accused of cyber-attacks.

What is the GRU?

Media captionWhat do we know about the Russian intelligence organisation, the GRU?

The GRU, also known as the Main Intelligence Directorate, is the intelligence arm of the Russian military.

It is different to the former KGB (now known as the SVR and FSB) as it conducts undercover military operations and collects intelligence operations around the globe.

In recent years the GRU has been accused of undercover involvement in the conflict in Ukraine, which saw the Russian annexation of Crimea in 2014.

It is believed that the two men accused of poisoning Russian ex-spy Sergei Skripal and his daughter Yulia, named as Alexander Petrov and Ruslan Boshirov, were GRU agents.

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Tour de Yorkshire 2019 host venues revealed

Tour de Yorkshire 2018Image copyright
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Hundreds lined Sutton Bank on the North York Moors during stage three of this year’s race

The start and finish venues for the 2019 Tour de Yorkshire cycle race have been revealed by the organisers.

The stages will begin or end at Barnsley, Bedale, Bridlington, Doncaster, Halifax, Leeds, Scarborough and Selby.

A tour of next year’s UCI Road World Championships circuit in Harrogate is also included.

The full route will be announced in December and the race will run between 2-5 May.

The Tour de Yorkshire has also been elevated in status to the tier below a World Tour event by the UCI, the sport’s governing body.

Unveiling the details Sir Gary Verity, chief executive of Welcome to Yorkshire, said Redcar would be a host town for the 2020 race.

He said: “We’re thrilled that Bedale will be making its debut as the town gave the riders an amazing reception when they passed through earlier this year, and I’m sure Redcar will also excel in 2020.

“The other locations have already proven themselves as more than worthy recipients and we cannot wait to return.”

Sir Gary added: “We felt it was important to confirm the inclusion of the Harrogate circuit as the sport’s best riders are already planning their trips to the 2019 UCI Road World Championships and the Tour de Yorkshire will be the only chance they get to sample that circuit under race conditions before then.”

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Harry Tanfield, from North Yorkshire, took the first stage of the 2018 tour in Doncaster

More than two million spectators took in four days of spectacular cycling action in the 2018 Tour de Yorkshire.

The race, extended to a fourth day for the first time, reached a dramatic conclusion in Leeds with Frenchman Stephane Rossetto, riding for the Cofidis team, claiming victory in the final stage.

The title was claimed by the reigning Olympic champion, Belgian Greg van Avermaet.

Harry Tanfield became the first Briton to win a stage of the race when he crossed first after the 182km (113m) stage one route to Doncaster from East Yorkshire.

Tanfield, 23, from Great Ayton in North Yorkshire and riding for Canyon Eisberg, said he “never ever dreamt it would happen”.

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The riders in 2018 were offered words of encouragement from a washing line in Elsecar, Barnsley

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The eight locations to feature in the 2019 Tour de Yorkshire have been revealed

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BMX rider Cullen chosen as Team GB’s flag-bearer

BMX rider Ross Cullen holds up the Union Jack after being selected as Team GB's flag-bearer at the Youth Olympics opening ceremony

Ross Cullen will complete alongisde Elissa Bradford in the BMX mixed team event

BMX rider Ross Cullen will be Great Britain’s flag-bearer at the 2018 Youth Olympics opening ceremony in Argentina.

Two-time world junior champion Cullen, 17, was selected by his Team GB team-mates.

The opening ceremony in Buenos Aires starts at 20:00 local time on Saturday (00:00 BST on Sunday).

Instead of a traditional stadium celebration, the ceremony will be a street party near the Obelisk landmark in the capital city.

“It’s amazing to be picked by my fellow athletes,” said Cullen, who will compete in the mixed team event on Sunday alongside Elissa Bradford.

“It felt like I’ve got on with everyone and it’s a really good group and strong team here so I’m really pleased they’ve picked me to lead the team out.”

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‘Exceptional deal for an exceptional talent’ – Bernal signs five

Team Sky's Egan Bernal finishes a stage of the 2018 Tour de France

Egan Bernal finished 15th overall at the 2018 Tour de France

Colombian rider Egan Bernal has signed a new five-year deal with Team Sky to extend his contract to 2023.

Bernal, 21, is one of cycling’s most promising young riders and provided key support for Geraint Thomas’ Tour de France win in July.

He won the Tour of California in May but has not raced since suffering head and facial injuries in a crash at the Clasica San Sebastian in August.

“It’s a dream team and I don’t see myself anywhere else,” said Bernal.

“I know five years is a long time and that it’s not too common in cycling, but the team has been great for me – they offer me everything I could want and I’m excited about the future.”

Most riders sign one or two-year contracts in professional cycling, although both Thomas and four-time Tour champion Chris Froome are currently on three-year deals with Team Sky.

Bernal joined from Italian outfit Androni-Sidermec in January and came sixth in his debut for the British team at the Tour Down Under, before taking second at the Tour of Romandie and finishing 15th in his first Grand Tour at the Tour de France.

Having recovered from his crash at the Clasica San Sebastian, Bernal is set to return at the Giro dell’Emilia race in Italy on Saturday.

Team Sky principal Sir Dave Brailsford said Bernal’s deal was a “strong signal of intent from the team about the future.”

“A five-year deal in cycling is exceptional, but Egan is an exceptional talent,” he added.

“Egan is part of the next generation at Team Sky, our next big leader for Grand Tours in the years to come, as we continue to build for a bigger and better future.

Team Sky have won six of the past seven Tours with Thomas, Froome and Sir Bradley Wiggins, while Froome also claimed the 2018 Giro d’Italia and 2017 Vuelta a Espana.

“We are proud of what we have achieved together at Team Sky since our formation, but we have even greater ambitions to keep on improving and Egan will be at the very heart of that,” said Brailsford.

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Armstrong whistleblower Landis to set up own cycling team

Floyd Landis and Lance Armstrong

Floyd Landis rode for US Postal Service alongside Lance Armstrong between 2002-2004

The whistleblower at the centre of the Lance Armstrong doping scandal is to make his return to cycling with the launch of his own team.

American Floyd Landis lifted the lid on former US Postal Service team-mate Armstrong’s long-term use of performance-enhancing drugs in 2010.

The Canada-based team will be sponsored by 42-year-old Landis’ cannabis business.

“I have a conflicted relationship with cycling, but I still like it,” he said.

In an interview with the Wall Street Journal, Landis – who won the 2006 Tour de France before being stripped of his title after failing a drugs test – said his team would be geared towards helping young riders.

“I still remember what it was like to be a kid, and race on a domestic team. It was some of the best years of my life,” he said.

Armstrong, 47, was stripped of all results since 1 August, 1998 – including his seven Tour de France titles – and banned from the sport for life in 2012 after the United States Anti-Doping Agency’s (Usada) investigation into what it called “the most sophisticated, professionalised and successful doping programme that sport has ever seen”.

He agreed to pay $5m (£3.8m) to settle his legal case with the US government, who alleged he had defrauded the US Postal Service during his years of doping.

Landis – who received a two-year ban for doping in 2007 – told the WSJ he had received around $750,000 (£576,150) as part of the Armstrong settlement for his co-operation, money he will use to set up his cycling team.

“I’m contrite about what happened, but you can never go back and change the decisions you made. At the very least, people can see that I’m ready to move on,” he said.

“Maybe it sounds odd, but it’s kind of some closure for me.”

Landis set up his Colorado-based cannabis company, Floyd’s of Leadville, in 2016. It sells legal hemp and cannabidiol (CBD) products which help to alleviate soreness in athletes.

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