United States to announce fresh sanctions on Russian Federation over SolarWinds hack

Carla Harmon
April 15, 2021

The Treasury Department sanctioned 32 organizations and individuals for their alleged influence operations aimed at the US election. The White House explicitly named a notorious hacking group known as APT29 or Cozy Bear - one of the spy outfits behind the 2016 hack of the Democratic National Committee - as being responsible for the SolarWinds compromises.

The wider sanctions forbid USA financial institutions from taking part in the market for ruble or non-ruble denominated bonds, or lending ruble or non-ruble denominated funds to Russia's Central Bank, National Wealth Fund or Ministry of Finance; sanction 32 entities and individuals thought to be involved in attempts to throw the controversial 2020 U.S. presidential election off course, and eight individuals and entities associated with Russia's attacks on Ukraine and continued illegal occupation of Crimea; and expel 10 intelligence operatives from Russia's Washington DC embassy.

For its part, the United Kingdom government's National Cyber Security Centre said Thursday that it was "highly likely" that the SVR was behind the SolarWinds breaches. The sanctions presumably meant to send a clear retributive message to Russian Federation and to deter similar acts in the future come amid an already tense relationship between the USA and Russian Federation.

US President Joe Biden's White House issued an executive order on Wednesday morning declaring a national emergency and expanding sanctions in response to Russian cyberattacks.

He set out the United Kingdom assessment that the Russian Intelligence Services were behind the SolarWinds compromise.

The order issues wide-bore priorities for the Treasury to bar transactions in the USA by anyone the Office of Foreign Asset Controls (OFAC) determines to have been involved in a range of activities, including working with the Russian tech sector or engaging in "actions or policies that undermine democratic processes or institutions in the United States or overseas".

Moscow has denied involvement in the so-called SolarWinds campaign.

"These actions are meant to hold Russian Federation to account for its reckless actions", he said in the statement.

The Kremlin gave an initially positive response to the idea but said Thursday that sanctions would not "help".

The White House statement also called out Russia's "targeting" of dissidents and journalists on foreign soil and undermining of security in countries important to U.S. national security.

Still, some lawmakers expressed skepticism that the Russian hacking had violated any norms.

In addition, the Biden administration is also expelling ten members of Russia's diplomatic mission in Washington, D.C., including representatives of its intelligence services.

The American government was looking at further steps to protect the technology supply chain against "further exploitation" by Russian Federation, the White House added.

The series of USA statements on Russian cyber-operations had other revelations: The Treasury Department formally linked Russia's FSB intelligence agency with a ransomware gang known as EvilCorp.

Also Thursday, U.S. government agencies issued an alert aimed at the private sector, saying that the SVR was exploiting five vulnerabilities to target U.S. companies.

Other reports by iNewsToday