Published: Sat, March 17, 2018
Life&Culture | By Rose Hansen

U.S. blames Russian Federation for hacking power grids and other critical systems

U.S. blames Russian Federation for hacking power grids and other critical systems

In enacting the sanctions, the Trump administration is finally meeting a congressional mandate to impose measures punishing Moscow for its cyber intrusion. Despite the findings of US intelligence agencies and special counsel Robert Mueller's investigation that Russian Federation sought to influence the 2016 election, Trump has often cast doubt upon, or sought to downplay, Russia's role.

The two organisations have issued a technical alert relating to what they say are Russian government actions targeting USA government entities as well as organisations in the energy, nuclear, commercial facilities, water, aviation, and critical manufacturing sectors.

Treasury Secretary Steven T Mnuchin said in a statement: "The Administration is confronting and countering malign Russian cyber activity, including their attempted interference in usa elections, destructive cyberattacks, and intrusions targeting critical infrastructure".

The officials say they've helped companies kick the Russians out of all systems now known to have been penetrated.

The officials briefed reporters on condition of anonymity to discuss sensitive national security information. Then, after gathering useful information, they use it to stage malware and to conduct phishing campaigns in order to gain access to energy sector networks.

The alert did not name the companies targeted, but it does reveal that they are "small commercial facilities", some of which are highly vulnerable as they still run older systems.

After initially equivocating about a chemical attack on a former Russian double agent in Salisbury, England, the White House joined a statement by the leaders of Britain, France and Germany in which they said they "abhor the attack" and blamed it on Moscow.

Reaction from Russian Federation was swift.

"So we will expand our "black list" with another group of Americans", Ryabkov was quoted as saying by news agency RIA Novosti.

The move comes despite Trump's repeated denial that Russian Federation tried to tilt the election in his favour, fearing it could call his victory over Hillary Clinton into question.

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It's unclear how much effect the new US measures will have in influencing Russian actions in the United States or Europe.

The Trump administration announced Thursday new sanctions on Russian Federation as punishment for interfering in the 2016 presidential elections.

"Russian cyber actors have been weaponizing information and targeting critical USA infrastructure undeterred for years", Chairman Ed Royce, California Republican, said in a statement.

The announcement came with a significant disclosure as well: according to the Treasury, some of the new sanctions tie directly to a concerted Russian effort to hack into the United States energy grid.

Altogether, 19 Russians were cited.

These new sanctions on Russian individuals and agencies accused of cyberattacks and interference in the 2016 election are a promising step.

The U.S. Treasury Department announced the sanctions amid withering criticism accusing Trump and his administration of failing to use its congressionally mandated authority to punish Russian Federation. Those targets include officials working for the Russian military intelligence agency, GRU.

The statement was issued shortly before Washington announced the blacklisting of five entities and 19 individuals for interfering in the 2016 USA presidential election and other malicious cyberattacks, including on America's energy grid.

The GRU was directly involved in interfering in the 2016 U.S. election through cyber activities, the Treasury Department said. It noted that the attack caused several USA hospitals to be unable to create electronic medical records for more than a week.

The Edison Electric Institute, which represents investor-owned electric companies that provide electricity for about 220 million Americans, said the government informed energy grid operators a year ago of a threat targeting them.

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