The Treasury Department on Monday sanctioned five Russian entities and three Russian individuals for helping Russia build up its offensive hacking prowess, targeting them as part of an continuing effort to deter Moscow’s aggression in cyberspace, U.S. officials said.
The entities and individuals were designated for aiding Russia’s Federal Security Service, or FSB, the powerful intelligence and security agency sanctioned earlier for its role in interfering in the 2016 presidential election.
“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.”
The sanctions are also in response to Russia’s tracking and potential targeting of undersea communication cables, which carry the bulk of the world’s telecommunications data, officials said.
Treasury’s Office of Foreign Assets Control (OFAC) placed four companies, one research institute and three Russian individuals on the sanctions list, freezing all assets subject to U.S. jurisdiction and barring U.S. companies and individuals from doing business with them. The sanctions were imposed under an Obama-era executive order creating a tool to impose sanctions for malicious cyber activity, and under a law Congress passed last August, the Countering America’s Adversaries Through Sanctions Act, to levy new sanctions on Russia, Iran and North Korea.
Treasury officials noted that Russia’s destabilizing cyber activities have included unleashing the destructive NotPetya computer worm, cyber-penetrations of the U.S. energy grid to enable potential future sabotage, and global compromises of network devices such as routers and switches that also could enable potential disruptive cyberattacks.
The companies sanctioned are Digital Security, which officials said since 2015 has worked on a project to increase Russian intelligence services’ offensive cyber capabilities; and two Digital Security subsidiaries — ERPScan and Embedi; and Divetechnoservices, which OFAC said has procured underwater equipment and diving systems for the FSB, including a submersible craft valued at $1.5 million,
Also sanctioned was the Kvant Scientific Research Institute, which OFAC stated was owned or controlled by the FSB and provided material and technological support.
The individuals placed on the sanctions list are Divetechnoservices owner Vladimir Kaganskiy, its general director, Aleksandr Tribun, and its program manager, Oleg Chirikov.