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US sanctions Russian govt institution tied to Malware

US sanctions Russian govt institution tied to Malware

The US has imposed new sanctions on a Russian government research institution that is connected to a malware "designed specifically to target and manipulate industrial safety systems".

In a statement on Friday, the Treasury Department said its Office of Foreign Assets Control (OFAC) designated the State Research Center of the Russian Federation FGUP Central Scientific Research Institute of Chemistry and Mechanics (TsNIIKhM) "for building customized tools that enabled the attack".

According to the statement, TsNIIKhM had supported an August 2017 cyber-attack involving the Triton malware, also known also as TRISIS and HatMan in open source reporting, on a petrochemical facility in the Middle East.

"Such systems provide for the safe emergency shutdown of industrial processes at critical infrastructure facilities in order to protect human life.

The cyber actors behind the Triton malware have been referred to by the private cybersecurity industry as 'the most dangerous threat activity publicly known'," the Department said in the statement.

The Treasury also claimed that in recent years, the Triton malware has been deployed against US partners in the Middle East, and the hackers behind the malware have been reportedly scanning and probing American facilities.

"The Russian Government continues to engage in dangerous cyber activities aimed at the US and our allies," Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin was quoted as saying in the statement.

"This administration will continue to aggressively defend the critical infrastructure of the US from anyone attempting to disrupt it," he added.

Responding to the sanctions, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said that the US "remains steadfast in countering malign cyber activities by Russian actors on behalf of the government of the Russian Federation", CNN reported.

"While the Russian government claims to be a responsible actor in cyberspace, it continues to engage in dangerous and malicious activities that threaten the security of the US and our allies.

"We will not relent in our efforts to respond to these activities using all the tools at our disposal, including sanctions," he was quoted as saying..