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Abu Dhabi, UAETuesday 11 December 2018

US blacklists Russian companies linked to hacking ops

Two of the companies have locations in Israel

In this file photo taken on March 2, 2018 shows the headquarters of the FSB security service in Moscow. Mladen Antonov / AFP
In this file photo taken on March 2, 2018 shows the headquarters of the FSB security service in Moscow. Mladen Antonov / AFP

The US Treasury has imposed sanctions on three Russian individuals and five Russian entities tied to attempts by Moscow’s military and intelligence services to launch cyberattacks against Washington.

The decision came just days after US President Donald Trump called for readmitting Russia into the G7.

"The United States 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," Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin said in a statement.

"The entities designated today have directly contributed to improving Russia's cyber and underwater capabilities through their work with the FSB and therefore jeopardize the safety and security of the United States and our allies," Mr Mnuchin said, using an acronym for Russia's Federal Security Service.

The sanctions focused on actors accused of helping Moscow attempt to carry out cyberattacks against the US energy grid and on internet routers.

https://twitter.com/USTreasury/status/1006182496952897536

The new measures prohibit US citizens from committing to transactions with those designated by the sanctions, and blocks all property of those sanctioned that is subject to US jurisdiction.

The designated firms are Digital Security, ERPScan, Embedi, Kvant Scientific Research Institute, and Divetechnoservices. Two of them, ERPScan and Embedi, are based in Israel.

The three individuals designated all had ties to Divetechnoservices. Aleksandr Lvovich Tribun, serves as the company’s General Director, Oleg Sergeyevich Chirikov its Program Manager, and Vladimir Yakovlevich Kaganskiy, the company’s owner.

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The Treasury said the sanctions sought to hamper Russia’s underwater capabilities, as it has been working to track underwater sea cables that transport much of the world’s telecoms data.

For instance, Divetechnoservices' offerings include the design, manufacture and supply of professional diving equipment, wrecking and underwater work, according to its website.

Since 2007, the company “has procured a variety of underwater equipment and diving systems for Russian government agencies, to include the FSB” the Treasury statement said. Further, in 2011, it “was awarded a contract to procure a submersible craft valued at $1.5 million for the FSB”.

The measures come after suspected Russian cyberattacks on the US, including the NotPetya attack last year that impacted hospitals and shipping facilities. The White House in February said the attack caused billions of dollars worth of damage.

The FSB also carried a 2014 Cyber attack that targeted and compromised millions of Yahoo accounts.

“The United States is committed to aggressively targeting any entity or individual working at the direction of the FSB whose work threatens the United States and will continue to utilize our sanctions authorities, including those provided under CAATSA [passed in 2017], to counter the constantly evolving threats emanating from Russia” Mr Mnuchin added.

The Trump administration, currently the subject of a months-long investigation into potential collusion between campaign officials and Moscow, placed sanctions on Russia’s intelligence services in March, including 19 individuals and five entities. It has still been accused of doing too little to punish Russia for suspected meddling in the 2016 presidential election.

Russia denies trying to hack into other countries’ infrastructures.