Russia's GRU Among Those Hit by EU Cyberattack Sanctions

Penalties are the organization's first
By Newser Editors and Wire Services
Posted Jul 30, 2020 7:00 PM CDT
First EU Cyber Sanctions Reach Russia, China, North Korea
Russian President Vladimir Putin, second from left, attends a meeting marking the centenary of the GRU in Moscow in 2018.   (Alexei Druzhinin, Sputnik, Kremlin Pool Photo via AP)

The European Union on Thursday imposed its first-ever sanctions over cyberattacks, slapping them on alleged Russian military agents, Chinese cyber spies, and organizations including a North Korean firm. The six people and three groups hit with sanctions include Russia's GRU military intelligence agency, the AP reports. EU headquarters blamed them for the 2017 "WannaCry" ransomware, "NotPetya" malware attacks, and the "Cloud Hopper" cyberespionage campaign. An EU official said the sanctions "are a travel ban and asset freeze to natural persons and an asset freeze to entities or bodies. It is also prohibited to directly or indirectly make funds available to listed individuals and entities or bodies." Four Russians identified as GRU members were accused of trying to hack the Wi-Fi network of the Netherlands-based Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons, which has probed the use of chemical weapons in Syria. The 2018 attack was foiled by Dutch authorities.

The GRU was also sanctioned for NotPetya, which targeted companies that do business with Ukraine and caused billions of dollars in damage globally, and cyberattacks on Ukraine’s power grid in 2015 and 2016. The two sanctioned Chinese nationals were accused of involvement in "Operation Cloud Hopper," which the EU said hit companies on six continents, including Europe, through cloud services providers and "gained unauthorized access to commercially sensitive data, resulting in significant economic loss." One of the two, Zhang Shilong, was indicted in the US for his alleged role in the operation, which authorities said targeted industries including aviation, biotechnology, and satellite and maritime technology. Also sanctioned by the EU was the Chinese company Huaying Haitai, listed as Zhang’s employer. The North Korean firm sanctioned is Chosun Expo, which the EU said backed cyberattacks including WannaCry, the hacking of Sony Pictures, and cyber robberies of Vietnamese and Bangladeshi banks.

(Read more cyberattack stories.)

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