Ministry blacklists Russian tech companies

Ministry blacklists Russian tech companies

The cyberwar between the US and Russia is entering a new phase. The US Department of Commerce has blacklisted four Russian IT companies and two other companies. According to the department, they are engaged in “aggressive and harmful activities”, including digital espionage. The Russian government would have played a prominent role in this.

According to the US news agency, the Treasury Department imposed sanctions on the six Russian companies last April. The department targeted companies in the technology sector with links to the Russian intelligence services. The sanctions are seen by experts as a measure to punish Russia for hacking into US targets, Russia’s interference in the 2016 US presidential election and the poisoning of opposition leader Alexei Navalny. Moscow has always denied these allegations.

The Ministry of Economic Affairs is adding to the sanctions announced in April. The department has blacklisted Russian companies. This means that American companies are not allowed to trade with these parties. They may not sell or license any equipment or parts.

It is rare for the US government to blacklist foreign companies. Donald Trump, President Biden’s predecessor, put Huawei, ZTE and some 70 other Chinese tech companies on the Entity List . The trade ban went so far as to ban Google from offering updates to its Android operating system to Huawei, nearly killing the company’s smartphone division. Trump said the Chinese companies were a threat to national security. The Federal Communications Commission (FCC), the US telecom watchdog, has provided “overwhelming evidence” to substantiate this accusation.

The Ministry of Economy has been working for months to blacklist Russian IT companies. The companies added to the list include a research centre of the Russian Defense Ministry and an IT company that conducts research for the Russian intelligence service. Several companies denied the allegations of digital espionage. One of the companies said it had participated in “the ethical exchange of information with the professional security community” and had never been involved in any form in an attack on US infrastructure.

The announcement comes at a striking time. President Biden and his Russian counterpart have had several conversations about cybersecurity, cyberattacks and cybercrime since mid-June. In recent months, the US has been the target of ransomware attacks on more than one occasion, severely damaging American society and the economy. Think of the attack on petroleum company Colonial Pipeline, meat producer JBS and global supply chain attack on ICT service provider Kaseya.

“I made it very clear to him [President Putin] that the US expects that when a  ransomware operation is carried out from its territory, even if the state does not order it, we expect them to act if we give them enough information. to act against who that is,” Biden recently told reporters. He has agreed with Putin that they will sound the alarm the moment one of the countries suspects that a (state) hacker is carrying out an attack on the other.

President Biden has said he is ready to retaliate against Russia if President Putin does not intervene against Russian hackers targeting the US. A senior employee confirmed that the reprisals involved both visible and invisible reprisals.

The disappearance of the Russian state hackers REvil is attributed by some to the US. From one day to the next, the hacker collective suddenly disappeared from the digital face of the earth, both on the dark web and the regular internet. The helpdesk was no longer available and spokesperson Unknown was banned from the popular hacker forum XSS.

A Kremlin spokesman told Russia’s state news agency TASS last week that the Russian government has nothing to do with REvil’s disappearance. “I can’t answer your question because I don’t have that information,” he told reporters. “I don’t know where the group is, or where they went.”

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