European Union sanctions Russian, Chinese hackers over alleged cyberattacks

Ruben Fields
August 2, 2020

Ultimately, the European Union is laying out a precedent for future punishments against cyberattacks by enacting sanctions against the GRU's Main Centre for Special Technologies- the tech headquarters of Russian intelligence - and Chinese hackers affiliated with the Beijing-sponsored APT 10 group.

This unit, based on Kirova Street in Moscow, is said to have carried out attacks known as NotPetya and EternalPetya in June 2017, hitting European Union private companies with ransomware and blocking data.

"The Council today made a decision to impose restrictive measures against six individuals and three entities responsible for or involved in various cyber-attacks", a press release published today reads.

The restrictive measures announced against these individuals/entities include a travel ban and asset freeze.

In a statement, the European Council said that EU's cyber diplomacy toolbox provides the option of imposing sanctions to respond to cyber activities that threaten EU interests, and this is the first time that EU has used the tool.

The cyber sanctions specifically target the North Korea-linked Chosun Expo company for its role in assisting Pyongyang-sponsored hackers in the WannaCry ransomware attack - mostly by serving as a place for North Korean hackers to launch cyberattacks from outside the DPRK.

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Another cyberattack directed at Ukraine resulted in parts of the country's power grid being switched off during the winter of 2015 and 2016.

The watchdog was investigating reports that Russian-backed Syrian forces carried out chemical attacks when alleged GRU agents were intercepted trying to penetrate the agency's wifi from a hire vehicle parked near its headquarters.

In a declaration, European Union foreign policy chief Josep Borrell said the bloc "will continue to strongly promote responsible behaviour in cyberspace, and call upon every country to cooperate in favour of global peace and stability, to exercise due diligence and take appropriate action against actors conducting malicious cyber activities".

The UK was at the forefront of efforts to establish the EU Cyber Sanctions regime and will continue to implement this regime at the end of the Transition Period, through our own autonomous UK Cyber Sanctions regime.

The U.S. Treasury previous year imposed sanctions on the Lazarus Group and two other North Korean hacking groups for their alleged participation in the attacks on Sony Pictures and the central bank of Bangladesh, among others.

It is alleged to have carried out cyber-theft from the Bangladesh Bank and attempted cyber-theft from the Vietnam Tien Phong Bank.

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