The Justice Department's Friday indictment of 12 Russian officials described them as midlevel functionaries staring at computer screens in windowless offices in the bowels of the vast Kremlin bureaucracy.

But Friday's indictment also shows how the front-line Russian intelligence agents who U.S. officials believe hacked the 2016 presidential election — some of world's most capable cyberwarriors — operate, and how they did a lot more than steal and disseminate embarrassing emails from Democratic party officials.

According to the 29-page charging document, the Russians deeply infiltrated two key Democratic Party organizations and key aspects of Democrat Hillary Clinton's campaign—watching their every move via real-time digital surveillance until just weeks before the election.

That kind of extraordinary capability allowed the Russians "to virtually look over the shoulders of Democratic campaign staffers in real time throughout most of the 2016 campaign," said Ballard Spahr Partner Ed McAndrew, a former federal cybercrime prosecutor and Justice Department lawyer. He attributed the "extremely high level of sophistication of the Russian GRU hackers" to their ability to combine sophisticated social engineering techniques and custom-designed malware with more simple spearphishing techniques used to obtain passwords of more than 300 unsuspecting victims from the Democratic party.

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