US federal prosecutors want a look into the activities of a Russian military-intelligence-backed network of proxy servers, including those of a company known as Red Onion, a former Soviet intelligence unit.
The Russian-American firm, which was founded by former KGB agents and is the subject of an investigation by the FBI, is also accused of using the service to create fake social media accounts.
Red Onion is accused of having hacked the personal information of tens of thousands of Americans, including political candidates and journalists, and posting it on Russian state-owned media.
FBI Director James Comey said on Friday that Russia had used the service “in an aggressive and sophisticated manner to penetrate and gather sensitive information, including personally identifiable information.”
“If you are the government and you are a law enforcement official and you have the capability of using this service, then you should take advantage of it,” he told the Senate Judiciary Committee.
“This is a very serious matter, and I think it’s important to have a thorough investigation into the Russian government’s role.”
The FBI is also seeking records from Red Onion that could shed light on how it built the infrastructure and managed the services that it used to target political targets, Comey said.
A spokesperson for Red Onion did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
The FBI said it had also seized documents that it believes show Red Onion’s “coordination and coordination with the Russian Government,” according to the letter sent to the court.
It said the FBI believed Red Onion “is responsible for conducting this operation and coordinating the operation with Russian military intelligence and law enforcement officials” to influence the outcome of the US presidential election.
It also said the company had used Russian social media platforms and other tools to target journalists and the media in the US, in an effort to influence opinion on topics including the US economy and political candidates.
In its indictment, the FBI said Red Onion was used to “distribute false information to the American public” and to create and disseminate fake social networking accounts that were “used to influence American citizens” in a bid to influence US politics.
Red Onion did business with the US government, including providing information technology, legal and accounting services, the indictment said.
It has been accused of hacking the personal data of tens to hundreds of thousands people, including former President Barack Obama and members of Congress, and disseminating propaganda about US political campaigns and candidates.
Russian state media outlets have reported that Red Onion had previously been investigated by the US Justice Department in 2010 for suspected cybercrime, including its alleged involvement in an attempted cyberattack on US Senator John McCain’s computer.
However, the company has denied any wrongdoing.