US ‘May Impose Hacking Sanctions On Russia’

Matt Broersma is a long standing tech freelance, who has worked for Ziff-Davis, ZDnet and other leading publications

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China isn’t the only country in the US government’s sights as it considers sanctions in retaliation for economic cyber-attacks

The US government is considering imposing economic sanctions on Russian individuals or organisations in retaliation for economic hacking incidents, following a similar stance against Chinese hackers, reports have claimed.

Such sanctions would effectively cut targets off from using the US financial system, making any serious business venture impossible, according to unnamed US officials cited in a Reuters report on Monday.

Russia sanctions

AirbusA Sunday article by The Washington Post said the US was preparing sanctions against China that could be deployed in the next few weeks, but didn’t mention Russia.

The sanctions would be the first use of an executive order signed by President Obama in April allowing the US to freeze the financial and property assets of, and bar commercial transactions with, individuals or entities abroad who engage in commercial cyber-espionage or cyber-attacks.

The Obama administration hasn’t yet made a final decision on whether to apply the sanctions, according to the Post.

They would target individuals or organisations who have benefited from cyber-thefts, but not for attacks deemed to be for state espionage purposes, such as a series of high-profile cyber-breaches that resulted in the theft of the personal data of millions of users, including the theft of US government personnel data, because those incidents are considered for espionage, rather than commercial, purposes, the reports said.

The decision on whether to put the sanctions into effect depends in part upon whether recent diplomatic efforts produce an effect, Reuters said. Countries other than Russa or China could also face sanctions, according to an official cited in the report.

The officials declined to name specific targets, saying that this could give them time to hide assets.

China’s US embassy said in a statement that the country “staunchly upholds” cyber security and “combats all forms of cyber attacks”. Russia’s US embassy didn’t immediately respond to a request for comment.

Russia, China ‘hacking collaboration’

US officials also said Russia and China have collaborated on aggregating and cross-indexing hacked data on US citizens in order to target US intelligence operatives, according to a separate report.

At least one clandestine network fo US engineers and scientists who provide support to US undercover agents abroad has been compromised as a result, according to the Los Angeles Times report, which cited two unnamed officials.

In May, China and Russia signed an agreement not to launch cyber-attacks against one another, a deal intended to pave the way for closer cooperation in the areas of law enforcement and information technology.

Presidential elections are scheduled for next year in the US, and cyber-security issues have taken a prominent place in pre-election discourse.

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