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EU slaps extra sanctions on Russian spy chief and APT28 malware dev over 2015 Bundestag hack

Better late than never, eh

The European Union has imposed sanctions on a Russian military malware developer and the commander of Russia’s MI6 equivalent, a mere five years after the two targeted Germany's parliament with a cyberattack.

The pair, an admiral commanding the GRU spy agency and a malware dev already on international sanctions lists for targeting the MH17 mass murder investigation, are now subject to yet another travel ban.

Britain's Foreign Office, ever keen to make it look as if it is acting on its own initiative in cyber-warfare matters, declared last night that the sanctions would be enforced by the UK as well as the EU, even though – until it leaves the EU on 1 January – it has no choice in law.

Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab said in a canned statement: "The UK stands shoulder to shoulder with Germany and our European partners to hold Russia to account for cyber attacks designed to undermine Western democracies. This criminal behaviour brings the Russian Government into further disrepute."

Dmitry Sergeyevich Badin, profiled by investigative website Bellingcat earlier this year is now subject to an asset freeze [PDF] by EU countries. Similarly, Admiral Igor Kostyukov, head of the GRU, will also no longer be able to use EU-headquartered banks or invest his personal wealth in countries with ties to the EU.

Badin was already on the American Federal Bureau of Investigation's list of "most wanted" cyber criminals following hacks on the World Anti-Doping Agency in 2016, part of red-faced Russia's attempt to sabotage the agency after officials realised many Russian athletes were taking banned performance-enhancing drugs.

The Bundestag hack reportedly began with the compromise of a PC used by German Chancellor Angela Merkel, a compromise that led to the wider Bundestag (parliament) network, paralysing the governmental organ for a few days.

Attribution simply doesn't work as a deterrent against authoritarian states' cyber-attacks on Western and Western-led institutions, though UK government officials have claimed to The Register that its main value is to try and convince neutral nations to join the Western point of view on norms of state behaviour in cyber-space.

With the UK's eventual departure from the EU in January, the government said it will "implement our own autonomous Cyber Sanctions regime at the end of the Transition Period." Earlier this week the US charged six Russian military hackers with crimes. ®

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