US may use sanctions against Russia for election hacking

Image: IDGNS

11 October 2016

The US response to election-related hacks that the Obama administration now blames on the Russian government could include sanctions against that country.

The administration has said that it has a range of options, including economic sanctions, to respond to Russian cyberattacks. A Republican lawmaker said he would propose legislation to move those sanctions forward.

Senator Cory Gardner, who represents Colorado, said his planned legislation would mandate that the US government investigate Russian cyber criminals and sanction them when appropriate.

“Russia’s interference with American democracy is a direct threat to our political process,” Gardner said in a statement.

Finer pointing
Gardner’s comments came after US intelligence agencies pointed a finger at Russia for recent cyberattacks in which sensitive emails from US officials and institutions were leaked. Russia initiated those attacks in an attempt to tamper with this year’s US presidential election, the agencies said.

Gardner’s legislation would be similar to measures the US took early last year to punish North Korea for its alleged hack of Sony Pictures. Sanctions were placed against 10 North Koreans and three groups in the country, denying them access to the US financial system.

The Obama Administration still has not said it will take any action against Russia. But in July, the White House suggested that sanctions could be a way for the US to respond.

Range of options
“We have a full range of options available to us in the government,” said White House press secretary Eric Schultz at the time. “That includes economic sanctions out of Department of Treasury.”

Schultz said the US Department of Defense and the Department of Justice also could take action.

However, Chase Cunningham, director of cyberoperations at security provider A10 Networks, doubts that the US will respond in any meaningful way.

Although US intelligence agencies have publicly blamed Russia for the election-related hacks, Friday’s statement was made late in the afternoon, when people would be preparing for the weekend and might not be paying attention. That suggests the US government wanted to downplay the allegations, he said.

“We have an election going on, and a president almost out of office,” Cunningham said. “Nothing is going to happen. People will point fingers, but that won’t really change anything.”

However, it is rare for the US to blame Russia for cyberattacks. The statement came from an investigation done by the US Intelligence Community, a group that includes 16 different government agencies including the CIA and FBI.

“When you have multiple agencies agree on something, you can take it to bank that this was thoroughly investigated,” Cunningham said.

In the meantime, Cunningham expects more election-related hacks during the remaining weeks until the 8 November vote. The US intelligence agencies allege that sites including WikiLeaks are being used by the Russian government to leak sensitive files on US officials and political groups.

WikiLeaks has released emails that allegedly were taken from a Hillary Clinton aide.

The Russian government has repeatedly denied any involvement in the hacks.


IDG News Service

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