Russian hackers have attacked a Swiss lab that analysed Novichok nerve agent samples from the Salisbury, according to local media.
The state-run Spiez laboratory near Bern was targeted by hackers believed to be linked to the Russian government ahead of a conference of chemical and biological warfare experts in September, the mass-market Swiss newspaper Blick reported.
After Sergei Skripal and his daughter Yulia were poisoned in Salisbury in March, the Swiss laboratory confirmed the British finding that they had fallen victim to the Soviet-developed military-grade nerve agent Novichok.
British authorities have alleged Russia is behind the attack, a charge Moscow denies.
Having created a fake email address to mimic the Spiez lab, the perpetrators sent a Word document to conference participants with malware embedded inside of it, the Federal Office for Civil Protection told the newspaper.
“Someone has posed as the Spiez laboratory. We immediately informed the conference invitees that the document was not ours, and pointed out the danger,” Kurt Münger of the office said.
It was not clear if any participants had opened the document and been infected, but Mr Münger said the lab had “not registered any outflow of data”.
The Moscow-based cybersecurity company Kaspersky Lab found that the hackers had Russian language skills, according to the report.
The Spiez lab confirmed that Sandworm, a group of hackers widely believed to be linked to Russia’s GRU military intelligence agency, was suspected.
The German publication Spiegel previously reported that Sandworm attacked two German public broadcasters along with the Swiss lab in June.
Cybersecurity experts have accused Sandworm of knocking out Ukrainian power grids in 2016.
Swiss intelligence has fingered the Russian government for previous cyberattacks on organisations in the country, including the International Olympic Committee and IT companies.
Russian foreign minister Sergei Lavrov claimed in April that the Spiez lab had found the Western-made BZ nerve agent in the Salisbury samples, but the Swiss facility responded on Twitter that there was no doubt that the substance used was Novichok.
The Department of Homeland Security said this month that the GRU military intelligence agency had infiltrated power plants across the United States.
The Spiez lab focuses on chemical, biological and nuclear warfare and is part of the country’s civil defence network.
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