MOSCOW, (CNN) – The World Anti-Doping Agency says Russian hackers, known as fancy bears, broke into a World Anti-Doping Agency database and released confidential medical information.
Included in the released names are gymnast Simone Biles, basketball player Elena Delle Donne, and tennis star Venus Williams.
Moscow has ruled out any government involvement in the cyber attack.
They celebrated their Olympic wins, but Russians have been seething at the treatment of their top athletes, tarnished by allegations of state sponsored doping. The question now is if one anonymous hacking group is exacting its digital revenge?
On their website they call themselves the fancy bears and say they hacked the world anti-doping agency, or W.A.D.A., to find “proof” other top athletes were also taking banned substances.
CNN can’t verify the authenticity of the site, but it has now published the private medical records of some of the biggest names in us sports.
Internet security specialists in Moscow say the fancy bears whoever they are, are clearly hungry for attention.
Sergey Nikitin, Digital Forensic Analyst said, “you can tell by the name they chose, by their website’s design, by what they aimed their attacks on, that they are driven by promoting themselves and raising their profile, perhaps to attract clients who would hire them for other hacking attacks, because cybercrime is a market where such an advert would be of high value.”
The fancy bears may be far more than mere criminals, perhaps part of a growing Russian presence on the global stage. Western officials link them and another group called the cozy bears, with the Russian secret services. The kremlin rejects that.
Digital investigators say there’s very little concrete evidence as the hackers are expert in hiding their origin.
Technical proof may be thin on the ground, but there’s no shortage of circumstantial evidence pointing to a Russian link. Most importantly, fancy bear and its counterpart, cozy bear, seem aligned with kremlin interests, only targeting critics, rivals and opponents of the Russian state.
The two bears were linked to the hack of Democratic Party emails earlier this year, casting the party of Hillary Clinton who’s a persistent critic of Russia in a negative light.
They’ve also been linked to hack attacks on Russia’s volatile neighbors, Georgia and Ukraine.
Analysts say the latest attack on the anti-doping agency fits into that same worrying pattern of these virtual bears mauling their victims in cyberspace.