The EU on Thursday imposed its first-ever sanctions over cyberattacks, targeting alleged Russian military agents, Chinese spies and a North Korean firm.
The six people and three groups hit with sanctions include Russia’s GRU military intelligence agency.
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,” EU High Representative for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy Josep Borrell said.
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 probed the use of chemical weapons in Syria.
The 2018 attack, which a leading US cybersecurity expert said involved a rare physical visit to the group’s facilities, 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 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 (張士龍), was indicted in the US in December 2018 for his alleged role in the operation, which US authorities said at the time targeted a wide array of industries, including aviation, biotechnology, and satellite and maritime technology.
Also sanctioned by the EU was the Chinese company Huaying Haitai Science and Technology Development Co, listed as Zhang’s employer.
The North Korean firm sanctioned was Chosun Expo Joint Venture, also known as Korea Expo Joint Venture, which the EU said backed cyberattacks, including “WannaCry,” the hacking of Sony Pictures, and robberies from Vietnamese and Bangladeshi banks.
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