US places further sanctions on Russia over conducting suspected cyber attacks

The sanctions have been placed on three individuals and five companies 

Mythili Sampathkumar
New York
Monday 11 June 2018 19:51 BST
A member of Russia's special operations unit stands with a national flag. The US Treasury just imposed new sanctions on three Russians and five Russian companies for suspected cyber attacks.
A member of Russia's special operations unit stands with a national flag. The US Treasury just imposed new sanctions on three Russians and five Russian companies for suspected cyber attacks. (REUTERS/Shamil Zhumatov)

The US Treasury department has issued new sanctions on Russian individuals and companies, saying they are suspected of conducting cyberattacks on the US and allies.

Treasury secretary Steve Mnuchin said in a statement the US is “engaged in an ongoing effort to counter malicious actors working at the behest of the Russian Federation and its military and intelligence units to increase Russia’s offensive cyber capabilities”.

Three individuals and five companies have been put on sanctions list by the agency for “directly contibut[ing] to improving Russia's cyber and underwater capabilities through their work with the [Russian Federal Security Service] and therefore jeopardize the safety and security” of the US and allies, Mr Mnuchin explained.

Being put on sanctions lists prohibits any American citizens from doing business with the people or entities as well as placing a block on all property the Russians and companies own that would be subject to US law.

Moscow has not yet responded to the latest round of sanctions in what has become a back-and-forth between the two countries over a variety of matters from North Korea, recognition of Jerusalem as Israel’s capital, Syria, and amid the FBI investigation into whether President Donald Trump’s 2016 campaign team possibly colluded with Russian officials.

Mr Trump has denied any collusion with Russian officials from his campaign team and has called the investigation a “witch hunt”.

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Treasury also said Russia’s efforts to "malign and destabili[se] cyber activities" included the NotPetya attack last year, which spread across Europe, Asia and the Americas. The malware crippled computers in Ukraine in an alleged attempt to disrupt the country’s financial system.

The White House blamed Russia for the attack this past February, saying it caused billions of dollars in damage and was part of the Kremlin's campaign to destabilise the country where it seeks to assert control over territory.

The attacks also included assaults on the US energy grid and on internet routers and switches, the Treasury said.

The latest sanctions also target Russia’s “underwater capabilities,” the agency said since undersea cables carry the majority of the world’s telecommunications data.

The designated companies are Digital Security, ERPScan, Embedi, Kvant Scientific Research Institute, and Divetechnoservices.

Divetechnoservices' offerings include the design, manufacture and supply of professional diving equipment, wrecking and underwater work, according to its website. The firm’s general director Aleksandr Lvovich Tribun; its program manager, Oleg Sergeyevich; and Chirikov and Vladimir Yakovlevich Kaganskiy, the company's owner are the individuals who were named on the list.

Russia’s federal security service, known by the acronym FSB, had already been hit with sanctions by the administration of Barack Obama in 2016, in part for its cyber operations surrounding the 2016 election.

In March 2018, the Trump administration also slapped sanctions on 19 individuals - including the personal chef of President Vladimir Putin - and five entities for cyber attacks that targeted the US power grid, including nuclear facilities, and stretched back at least two years.

Moscow has denied any attempts to hack into other countries’ infrastructure systems.

Agencies contributed to this report. 

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