Dutch intelligence services have arrested two Russian spies. They are accused of planning to hack the Swiss lab investigating the poisoning of double agent Sergei Skripal.
The two agents, believed to be working for Russia's GRU military intelligence service, targeted the Spiez laboratory near Bern, according to the Dutch-based NRC newspaper and the Swiss daily Tages-Anzeiger.
The spies were arrested earlier this year and then expelled by the Netherlands.
Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov, however, refuted this information by saying he could not believe the arrests have not have been noticed at the time by the media.
The two men were detained by the Dutch military intelligence MIVD during a joint action with the services of several other countries and then expelled from the Netherlands.
"The duo, according to sources within the investigation, carried equipment which they wanted to use to break into the computer network" of the Spiez laboratory, those two newspapers said.
At the time, Spiez was analyzing data related to poison gas attacks in Syria, as well as the March 4 attack using the nerve agent Novichok on Russian double agent Sergei Skripal and his daughter in Salisbury.
The laboratory performs analyzes by the Organization for the Weapons of Chemical Weapons (OPCW) orders.
There is still no official information with specific details of the two agents' arrests, let us remind you that on March 26, Dutch Prime Minister Mark Rutte announced that his cabinet had decided to evict "two Russian intelligence workers from the Russian embassy" as a result of the Skripal attack.
Now, Swiss intelligence services confirm that they were aware of the incident.
"The case of the Russian spies discovered in The Hague and then expelled from The Hague is known to Swiss authorities," Isabelle Graber, spokeswoman for the Swiss intelligence services.
The Swiss spy agency "actively participated in this operation in collaboration with its Dutch and British partners in prevention of illegal actions against critical Swiss infrastructure," she added.
Spiez laboratory confirmed that they had been attacked by hackers earlier this year, but firmly refused to comment on the current allegations against those Russians arrested in the Netherlands.
"We had indications in the past few months that we were in the crosshairs of some hacking attempts and took precautions and weren't compromised," Andreas Bucher, a spokesman for the Spiez lab said.
This is one of the positive examples of a serious cybersecurity attitude of organizations' networks and systems, perhaps the measures taken at that time have prevented serious attempts of hacker theft to succeed.
Dutch intelligence services refused to comment: "we don't give information about operations".
Some time ago, Britain had accused two men of being GRU agents involved in the murder attempt on Skripal, and they claimed to be just tourists who came to visit the Salisbury Cathedral.
But these two men, named by British security services as Alexander Petrov and Ruslan Boshirov, "were not the two agents intercepted" by the Netherlands,
the Swiss newspaper Tages-Anzeiger reports.
This is yet another proof that espionage and hacker attacks are not just movies stories but real life. Since nobody is really protected, it's time to realize the responsibility to take care of our own cybersecurity by ourselves. There are basic rules for our Internet behavior hygiene to protect us from human errors, but it is also necessary to carry out penetration tests and various security assessment services to keep our information and money safe from hacker attacks.