US announces new sanctions against Russian trolls and hackers

US announces new sanctions against Russian trolls and hackers

The US Treasury Department has instituted a new set of sanctions against five entities and 19 individuals tied to Russian hacking and influence operations. The sanctions target many of the same Internet Research Agency employees charged by Special Counsel Robert Mueller in February, as well as various members of Russian intelligence. US persons and corporations are forbidden from doing business with anyone designated by the sanctions, cutting targets off from much of the world’s financial infrastructure.

“The Administration is confronting and countering malign Russian cyber activity, including their attempted interference in U.S. elections, destructive cyber-attacks, and intrusions targeting critical infrastructure,” said Treasury Secretary Steve Mnuchin said in a statement accompanying the announcement.

Today’s designations come in response to a bill signed into law in August, which required the Treasury to impose new sanctions by January 29th. When the deadline initially arrived, the State Department told senators it did not plan to implement further sanctions, viewing existing measures as sufficient deterrent. Today’s measures represent only a portion of the sanctions mandated by the bill.

The new sanctions also target six members of a Russian intelligence agency for their role in the NotPetya attack in 2017. The attack shut down central banks, transportation hubs, and power plants throughout Ukraine, and was widely attributed to a targeted operation by Russian intelligence. The malware was disguised as a ransomware attack, which encrypts a system’s data and demands a payout to restore it, but experts believed the attackers were more interested in punishing Ukraine than making money.

“Pretending to be a ransomware while being in fact a nation state attack,” one analyst wrote at the time, “ is in our opinion a very subtle way from the attacker to control the narrative of the attack.”

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