EU imposes sanctions against Chinese, Russian and North Korean hackers over cyber attacks

The European Council announced on Thursday that it is imposing sanctions on six individuals and three entities from China, Russia and North Korea for carrying out cyber attacks against European citizens and business.

The restrictive measures announced against these individuals/entities include a travel ban and asset freeze. The people and organisations in EU are also forbidden from making funds available to listed individuals.

The individuals/bodies that have been hit with European Council’s sanction include:

  • Aleksei Sergeyvich Morenets from Russia
  • Alexey Valeryevich Minin from Russia
  • Oleg Mikhaylovich Sotnikov from Russia
  • Evgenii Mikhaylovich Serebriakov from Russia
  • Gao Qiang from China
  • Zhang Shilong from China
  • Tianjin Huaying Haitai Science and Technology Development Company from China
  • Chosun Expo from North Korea
  • Main Centre for Special Technologies of GU/GRU military intelligence service from Russia

According to EU officials, Gao Qiang and Zhang Shilong from China were members of the hacking group APT10 that was responsible for Operation Cloud Hopper.

Four Russian hackers were GRU agents who tried to hack the WiFi network of the Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW) in the Netherlands.

North Korean organisation Chosun Expo, which is believed to have links with Lazarus group, was penalised for facilitating the ‘Wannacry’ attack that impacted more than 300,000 computers in 150 countries.

In a statement, the European Council said that EU’s cyber diplomacy toolbox provides the option of imposing sanctions to respond to cyber activities that threaten EU interests, and this is the first time that EU has used the tool.

“The EU remains committed to a global, open, stable, peaceful and secure cyberspace and therefore reiterates the need to strengthen international cooperation in order to promote the rules-based order in this area,” the Council said in a statement.

The UK has welcomed EU’s restrictive steps against cyber criminals, stating that such measures will send a strong signal to cyber actors that their malicious activities against European people will have consequences.

“Today’s actions will raise the cost on malicious cyber activity by state and non-state actors and will help counter future hostile activity in cyberspace,” said British Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab.

“The UK was at the forefront of efforts to establish the EU Cyber Sanctions regime and we will continue to implement this regime after the end of the Transition Period,” he added.

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