US imposes sanctions over Russian military, intelligence hacking

The United States Treasury Department imposed sanctions on five Russian companies and three individuals for allegedly supporting the country's  military and intelligence services to conduct cyber attacks againt the U.S and its allies.

“The United States is engaged in an ongoing effort to counter malicious actors working at the behest of the Russian Federation and its military and intelligence units to increase Russia’s offensive cyber capabilities,” Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin said in a statement.

“The entities designated today have directly contributed to improving Russia’s cyber and underwater capabilities through their work with the FSB [Federal Security Service] and therefore jeopardize the safety and security of the United States and our allies,” Mnuchin said.

The companies and individuals who are facing sanctions will be banned from any kind of transactions involving the US financial system.

This decision is aftermath  reaction  of many Russia-based cyberattacks that had hit the country, and the world worst. It is believed that Russian hackers were behind  the VPNFilter malware that infected more than half a million routers worldwide, power outages in Ukraine and a ransomware attack that the US government called the "most destructive cyberattack in history."

The three cybersecurity companies which have been sanctioned include Kvant Scientific Research Institute, Divetechnoservices (provides underwater equipment and diving systems to Russian agencies), Digital Security, ERPScan and Embedi. However, the latter two are not based in Russia, but, the department said they're owned by Russia-based Digital Security.

 Embedi's marketing head,  Alex Kruglov,  said they are unsure why their company was added in list sanctioned list, and denied working for the Russian government.

"We never worked with Russian government and any government at all," Kruglov said in an email. He said the company isn't clear on what they'll do in their next steps.

The three Russians who worked with Divetechnoservices have also been sanctioned: Aleksandr Lvovich Tribun, Oleg Sergeyevich Chirikov and Vladimir Yakovlevich Kaganskiy.

“Today’s action also targets the Russian government’s underwater capabilities,”Mnuchin said. “Russia has been active in tracking undersea communication cables, which carry the bulk of the world’s telecommunications data.”