The Treasury Department sanctioned five Russian companies and three Russian citizens on Monday for strengthening the cyber capabilities of Russia’s military and intelligence units.
One of the companies was controlled directly by the Russian Federal Security Bureau (FSB), the internal spy agency that succeeded the notorious KGB. Two other entities provided material and technological support to the agency. The rest were linked to the sanctioned companies.
“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 June 11 statement.
“The entities designated today have directly contributed to improving Russia’s cyber and underwater capabilities through their work with the FSB and therefore jeopardize the safety and security of the United States and our allies.”
The Treasury Department cited several of Russia’s “malign and destabilizing cyber activities,” including the NotPetya cyber attack, intrusions into America’s power grid that could enable future offensive operations, and Moscow’s global effort to compromise network infrastructure devices like routers and switches.
The White House blamed Russia for the NotPetya cyber attack, saying that it caused billions of dollars’ worth of damage.
Moscow has also been actively tracking underwater communications cables which carry a huge swath of the world’s data.
The Treasury Department already sanctioned the FSB directly on March 15. The sanctions announced Monday target companies and people who aid and abet the agency.
The sanctions block all property belonging to those companies and people subject to U.S. jurisdiction. Americans are also prohibited from transacting with them.
“The United States is committed to aggressively targeting any entity or individual working at the direction of the FSB whose work threatens the United States and will continue to utilize our sanctions authorities, including those provided under CAATSA [Countering America’s Adversaries Through Sanctions Act], to counter the constantly evolving threats emanating from Russia,” Mnuchin said.
Moscow had no immediate comments on the sanctions. The Treasury Department released the announcement as soccer teams from around the world arrived in Russia for the 2018 FIFA World Cup.
The firms impacted by the sanctions are Digital Security, ERPScan, Embedi, Kvant Scientific Research Institute, and Divetechnoservices.
Divetechnoservices offerings include the design, manufacture, and supply of professional diving equipment, wrecking, and underwater work, according to its website.
The individuals named on Monday all had ties to Divetechnoservices—its general director, Aleksandr Lvovich Tribun; its program manager, Oleg Sergeyevich Chirikov; and the company’s owner, Vladimir Yakovlevich Kaganskiy.
Washington imposed additional sanctions against the intelligence services in March when President Donald Trump’s administration slapped sanctions on 19 individuals and five entities in the orbit of Russian President Vladimir Putin. The sanctions triggered a collapse on the Russian stock market
At the time, the administration publicly blamed Moscow for the first time for a campaign of cyber attacks that targeted the U.S. power grid, including nuclear facilities, stretching back at least two years. Russia has denied trying to hack into other countries’ infrastructures.
News of the sanctions arrived two days after Trump called on the leaders of the G-7 to readmit Russia into the group. Russia was expelled from the group, named G-8 at the time, in 2014 over its annexation of Crimea.
“Now, I love our country. I have been Russia’s worst nightmare,” Trump told reporters before departing for the G-7 summit. “But we have a world to run. And in the G-7, which used to be the G-8, they threw Russia out. They should let Russia come back in because we should have Russia at the negotiating table.”
Reuters contributed to this report.