Updated Dec 7, 2023 - Politics & Policy

U.S. sanctions, charges Russians over years-long hacking campaign

The US Treasury building

The U.S. Treasury building in Washington, D.C. Photo: Al Drago/Bloomberg via Getty Images

The U.S. in tandem with the U.K. on Thursday issued new sanctions on people affiliated with a years-long hacking campaign sponsored by Russia's top security agency.

Why it matters: Since as early as 2016, the campaign by Russia's Federal Security Service (FSB) has targeted entities associated with the governments, militaries and other affiliates of the U.S., U.K. and other NATO countries, the Treasury Department said in a release.

  • The hackers have also targeted news media and private organizations.
  • "The United States and the United Kingdom stand together, steadfast against the Kremlin and its state-sponsored malicious cyber groups' efforts to target our democracies," said Brian Nelson, Treasury undersecretary for terrorism and financial intelligence, in a statement.
  • "Russia's attempts to interfere in UK politics are completely unacceptable and seek to threaten our democratic processes," Foreign Secretary David Cameron said in a U.K. government press release.

Driving the news: A federal grand jury in San Francisco also indicted the same two men for conducting a campaign to hack computer networks in the U.S., U.K., Ukraine and other NATO countries, the Justice Department announced Thursday.

  • The indictment is "part of a coordinated international response to send a message to the conspirators that the whole of the United States government stands together ... to identify and disrupt cyber espionage actors," said Assistant Attorney General Matthew G. Olsen of the Justice Department's National Security Division.

Details: The FSB's spear phishing campaigns have been involved in hack-and-leak operations.

  • In 2019, the FSB was involved in the leak of U.S.-U.K. trade documents, the U.K. government said.
  • In 2022, FSB actors directed their activities at the facilities of a U.S. government agency, per the Treasury Department's release.

What they're saying: Thursday's news "should reinforce why it would be dumb to further embolden [Russian President Vladimir] Putin by walking away from our commitments to Ukraine in their fight to defend themselves," Senate Intelligence Committee Chair Mark Warner (D-Va.) told Axios in a statement.

Zoom in: Both countries have sanctioned Ruslan Aleksandrovich Peretyatko, an FSB officer who used a fake email account to send malicious spear phishing emails, per Treasury.

  • They also both sanctioned Andrey Stanislavovich Korinets, an IT worker who "created and registered malicious domain infrastructure" for the FSB's phishing campaigns.
  • The Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency (CISA) concurrently issued an advisory against Star Blizzard, an FSB-affiliated unit. The U.K. government said in its release that both men were members of the unit.

The big picture: News of the sanctions comes the same day Russian lawmakers approved a decree scheduling the country's next presidential election for Mar. 17, 2024, AP reported.

  • Putin, 71, has the ability to seek two more terms — which means he could remain in power until 2036.
  • The FSB is the successor organization to the Soviet Union's KGB, where Putin was an operative.

Editor's note: This story has been updated with details about the federal grand jury indictment in San Francisco.

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