During the PyeongChang 2018 Winter Olympics, a number of South Korean computers were hacked prior to the opening ceremony. A report following the event from two U.S. officials who spoke on the condition of anonymity states that this was a Russian false-flag operation designed to look like it was done by North Koreans.

Russian military spies hacked several hundred computers used by authorities at the 2018 Winter Olympic Games in South Korea, according to U.S. intelligence.

They did so while trying to make it appear as though the intrusion was conducted by North Korea, what is known as a “false-flag” operation, said two U.S. officials who spoke on the condition of anonymity to discuss a sensitive matter.

Analysts surmise the disruption was retaliation against the International Olympic Committee for banning the Russian team from the Winter Games due to doping violations. No officials from Russia’s Olympic federation were allowed to attend, and while some athletes were permitted to compete under the designation “Olympic Athletes from Russia,” they were unable to display the Russian flag on their uniforms and, if they won medals, their country’s anthem was not played.

Assuming that the allegations are true, what might Russia gain by making it look like North Korea hacked computers for the Olympics?

It doesn't look like it does anything to resolve the issue with being banned due to doping violations. Is it just to make South Korea look bad because they didn't have their security together and shift blame to another party? Or is there another gain for Russia?


1 Answer 1


Absent a clandestine recording or smuggled out meeting notes from FSB meeting discussing this, it's impossible to answer conclusively.

However, if you assume what your question assumes (that the intent is to embarrass South Korea), there's ample reason to do so:

  • South Korea is a strong US ally in general.

  • Additionally, it's the focal point of Korean conflict, where USA is opposite of Russia which is an ally of sorts of DPRK.

  • Doping banning Olympics embarrassment for Russia.

    I'm not sure people in the West appreciate just how huge a deal it was in Russia. I had the misfortune of watching Opening Olympic Ceremonies from Russian TV. About 80% of time was spent hissing and moaning about the ban, less than 20% on talking about the actual ceremony.

    I'm assuming that it wasn't South Korea's idea, but since they are hosting the games, they get blamed for this anyway.

  • As an extra carrot, if the false-flag succeeds, you get North Korea blamed for hacking - which sets another precedent - which in turn in the future allows Russia to blame North Koreans for other attacks.

  • Good answer, but you're assuming slightly too much in the opening. The question only assumes that the allegations are true (Russia hacked South Korea under a false flag of North Korea). I don't think they're assuming it was explicitly intended to embarrass South Korea. Commented Feb 27, 2018 at 16:59
  • @GGMG - I'm going off the last paragraph in the Q
    – user4012
    Commented Feb 27, 2018 at 20:22
  • 3
    Re "moaning about the ban": please clarify as to whether the complaining was mostly about the crime itself, (shame on our athletes who dope), or that any ban existed, (doping is good and should be legal), or that the ban was enforced on Russians, (unfair, everybody does it, anti-Russian).
    – agc
    Commented Feb 28, 2018 at 18:45
  • 3
    @agc #2 and #3. Mostly #3. I don't think I heard a single acknowledgement that someone did dope
    – user4012
    Commented Feb 28, 2018 at 19:38

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