Americas, Asia - Pacific

US to sanction Russia for mass hack, Navalny poisoning

Penalties expected in 'coming weeks,' according to Washington Post

Michael Hernandez   | 23.02.2021
US to sanction Russia for mass hack, Navalny poisoning

WASHINGTON

The US is coming close to imposing sanctions against Russia for a sweeping hack of federal and private computer networks, and the poisoning of an opposition leader, according to a report published Tuesday.

The forthcoming penalties are in relation to the SolarWinds hack that the US said compromised at least nine federal agencies, and about 100 private businesses, including tech giants such as Microsoft, the Washington Post reported. Additional sanctions are being planned for last year's near-fatal poisoning of Russian opposition leader Alexey Navalny who was imprisoned after returning to Russia. He had been receiving medical treatment in Germany after the suspected Novichok poisoning.

The SolarWinds cyberattack affected a sweeping range of entities, reportedly enabling the nascent Biden administration to label it "indiscriminate," and give it ground to sanction the suspected perpetrators.

The US is also likely to offer a more definitive assessment of responsibility for the SolarWinds attacks that will go beyond its conclusion in January that Russia was "likely" to blame.

US President Joe Biden appeared to telegraph that repercussions for Russia's actions were forthcoming while addressing the Munich Security Conference last week.

"Addressing Russian recklessness and hacking into computer networks, in the United States and across Europe and the world, has become critical to protecting our collective security," Biden told the virtual convening.

It is unclear when the sanctions will be announced, but the Post reported that the timeline is expected to be within the "coming weeks."

In addition to the seven agencies previously known to have been affected by the SolarWinds attack -- Commerce, Energy, Homeland Security, National Institutes of Health, Justice, State, and Treasury, the Post reported that NASA and the Federal Aviation Administration were also affected.

“Our general assumption is this was designed to be a long-term operation, low and slow, targeting very few accounts in each individual agency and being selective about the exfiltration so as to avoid detection,” an unnamed US official told the newspaper.

Sanctions for poisoning Navalny will be conducted in tandem with the US's European allies, Politico reported.



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