Not so long ago, the world learned about Russian cyberespionage attacks only when embarrassed government officialsadmitted they'd detected the hackers silently lurking in their systems. Today, the same intruders seem to announce themselves on Facebook, via Twitter, and even on their own website contained within bear-themed clip art and gifs.

On Tuesday, a group identifying itself as Russian hackers announced that it had breached the World Anti-Doping Agency and leaked the records of American athletes, including gymnast Simone Biles and tennis superstars Venus and Serena Williams.( Biles, for instance, has taken an ADHD medication since early childhood and WADA had approved her employ of it during competitor .) The records show that the agency had approved the athletes to use of banned substances after it had banned cheating Russian athletes from the Rio Olympics and were published on the website FancyBears.net and broadcast via social media accounts under the same name.

The actions seemed designed to tie the hacker to the Russian group Fancy Bear, one of two teams of hackers with links to Russian intelligence agencies that the Democratic National Committee says it find excavating through its files earlier the summer months. Some cyberespionage experts view it all as a sign of an evolving Russian hacker mentality that's traded stealth for flashy public dumps of adversaries' data.

” The Russians are taking it to the next level ,” tells Dave Aitel, a former NSA analyst and founder of the security firm Immunity. Aitel argues that rather than hide their involvement in the anti-doping bureau hack, different groups may realise it can have more influence by openly claiming credit for its assaults and sending a message to other potential antagonists.” Theyve realized being covert had no advantage….Theres no penalty for saying' yeah, its us.'”

A screenshot of the FancyBears.net site .

The hackers called themselves the” Fancy Bears' international hacker squad” in messages posted to their website but also say they're each member of Anonymous and use some phrases and images associated with that loosely coordinated hacker collective.” We are going to tell you how Olympic medals are won ,” one message states.” We hacked World Anti-Doping Agency databases and “were in” shocked with what we watch. We do not forgive. We do not forget. Expect us .”

But in a statement on its website, WADA pins the attacks on the Fancy Bear hacking team, also known as APT2 8, that the security firm Crowdstrike identified as a one of two Russian state-sponsored spying groups that gained access to the Democratic National Committee's network in June. WADA has been informed by law enforcement authorities that these attacks are originating out of Russia, writes the agency's director general Olivier Niggli. WADA denounces these ongoing cyber-attacks that are being carried out in an attempt to undermine WADA and the global anti-doping system .”

Crowdstrike declined to comment on whether it had connected the WADA hack to Fancy Bear. But if WADA is rightthatthe hack was in fact done by the same group–rather than by a different team of hackers assuming its name–it would signal a dramatic change in tactics. According to Crowdstrike's analysts, Fancy Bear has actively and stealthily hacked into military, energy, aerospace, media, and government targets since the mid-2 000 s. But never before have they so publicly flaunted the results.

The strange events following Fancy Bear's hacker of the DNC already hinted at a shift in stance. A figure calling himself Guccifer 2.0 and claiming to be a Romanian hacktivist leaked the DNC's stolen documents in June but left behind telltale Russian fingerprints, like his use of a Russian VPN and Russian error messages in the following documents' formatting. The security community has largely come to believe that the Romanian pseudonym was a thin pretense, even after President vladimir putin denied that his government was involved. With the WADA hack, the Russian hackers watched to havetossed out the notion of hiding their identity altogether.

Aitel tells the hackers are using their more public profile to instill a chill effect, forcing critics of Russia or the Russian government to consider the possibility they could be hacked, too.” Now a group like WADA has to take everything they say to every person into account ,” he says.” They have to think, this could leak .”

The White House has considered sanctions against Russia as a response to the DNC hack, according to the Wall Street Journal. But those sanctions haven't been imposed–even as Guccifer 2.0 leaked 700 megabytes more DNC data yesterday–perhaps due to the difficulty of demonstrating the ties between Russian hackers and the Russian government or other diplomatic hurdles.

The result, for the Russian attackers, may be a sense of impunity.” The absence of a credible response to most cyberattacks by the West is also contributing to the already existing deterrence problem and even promotes farther aggression ,” wrote analysts at NATO's Cooperative Cyber Defense Center of Excellence in August in response to the DNC hack.” A longer-term, structural answer should offer a robust deterrence strategy to ensure that these kinds of influence operations through cyberspace will no longer be seen as relatively low risk operations which come with little or no repercussions .”

After yesterday's WADA hack, Berkeley computer security researcher Nicholas Weaver set it more simply.” So let me get this straight-out,' Fancy Bear' is DIRECTLY claiming credit for this? Testicular fortitude ,” he wrote on Twitter.” We have shown we have no strategy for deterrence in this space, so the Bears are getting Fancy with us .”

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