The US was about to declare sanctions on Russia in retaliation for the SolarWinds hack

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Biden ready to announce sanctions against Russia in retaliation for SolarWinds hack and amid military build-up of Kremlin on Ukraine border

  • The sanctions would be the first retaliatory action announced against the Kremlin for last year’s hack
  • Russian hackers are believed to have infected commonly used software with malicious code
  • Code enabled them to access the networks of at least nine agencies in a suspected intelligence gathering operation aimed at extracting government secrets
  • US officials claimed Russian President Vladimir Putin had authorized influence operations to aid Donald Trump in a failed bid for re-election as president

The Biden government is preparing to declare sanctions in response to a massive Russian hacking campaign that breached key federal agencies, as well as interference in the elections, a senior government official said Wednesday night.

The sanctions, preceded by the government for weeks, would be the first retaliatory action announced against the Kremlin for last year’s hack, known as the SolarWinds breach.

In the breach, Russian hackers allegedly infected commonly used software with malicious code, allowing them to access the networks of at least nine agencies in what US officials said was an intelligence campaign aimed at extracting government secrets.

Aside from that hack, US officials claimed last month that Russian President Vladimir Putin had exerted influence to aid Donald Trump in his failed bid for re-election as president, although there is no evidence that Russia or anyone else changed votes or has the outcome. manipulated.

President Joe Biden

Russian President Vladimir Putin

The Biden government prepares to declare sanctions in response to a massive Russian hacking campaign that breached key federal agencies, as well as interference in elections

The measures will be announced Thursday, the official said, who was not authorized to discuss the matter by name and spoke to The Associated Press on condition of anonymity.

It was not immediately clear what other actions, if any, would be planned. Officials had previously said they expected to take action, both seen and unseen.

The sanctions, presumably intended to send a clear message of retaliation to Russia and deter similar acts in the future, come amid an already tense relationship between the US and Russia.

President Joe Biden told Putin this week in their second call to “ de-escalate tensions ” following a Russian military build-up on the border with Ukraine, saying the US would act “ decisively in defense of their national interests ” with regard to Russian invaders and electoral interference.

In a television interview last month, he replied ‘yes’ when asked if he thought Putin was a ‘murderer’. He said the days when the US “tilted” towards Putin were over. Putin later recalled his ambassador to the US, citing the American history of slavery and the massacre of Native Americans and the atomic bombing of Japan in World War II.

It remained unclear whether the US actions would actually lead to behavioral change, especially as previous US measures failed to end the Russian hacking. The Obama administration expelled diplomats from the US in 2016 in response to interference in that year’s presidential election. And while Trump was often reluctant to criticize Putin, his administration also dismissed diplomats in 2018 over alleged poisoning by Russia of a former intelligence officer in Britain.

US officials are still grappling with the aftermath of the SolarWinds break-in, which affected agencies including the Treasury, Justice, Energy and Homeland Security Departments, and are still assessing what information may have been stolen. The breach exposed vulnerabilities in the supply chain as well as weaknesses in the federal government’s own cyber defenses.

The actions would represent the second major round of sanctions imposed against Russia by the Biden government. Last month, the US sanctioned seven middle and senior Russian officials, along with more than a dozen government agencies, over a near-fatal nerve attack on opposition leader Alexei Navalny and his subsequent jail term.

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