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Biden Administration Issues Russian Sanctions in Response to SolarWinds Hack, Election Interference

This isn't the first time the United States has sanctioned Russia for malicious cyber activity.

Edward Gately

April 16, 2021

6 Slides

This week, the Biden administration handed down new Russian sanctions for its interference in the 2020 U.S. election, the massive SolarWinds hack and human rights abuses in Crimea.

According to CNN, the Russian sanctions followed the U.S. intelligence community’s annual report that says Russia “presents one of the most serious intelligence threats to the United States.”

The U.S. formally named the Russian Foreign Intelligence Service as the force behind the SolarWinds hack that affected the federal government and numerous private sector companies.

A number of cybersecurity experts in the channel weighed in on the Russian sanctions and whether they’ll potentially impact national cybersecurity.

Unclear Signal

Randy Watkins is CriticalStart‘s CTO.

Watkins-Randy_Critical-Start.jpg

Critical Start’s Randy Watkins

“While the sanctions send a signal to Russia, it’s unclear which signal,” he said. “It’s also noteworthy that most of the hacks done by Russia are not actually done by government employees, but rather government-sanctioned cyber crime groups, which these sanctions would have little effect on. The sanctions imposed named multiple scenarios for their justifications, including not just the cyberattack on SolarWinds, but also election interference and aggression in Ukraine.”

The targeting of some Russia-based security companies is a bit more pointed, Watkins said. However, it’s much less impactful than some of the economic sanctions that could be interpreted as punishment for any of the other reasons named.

Cyberattacks will continue, undoubtedly,” he said. “It was a dumb mistake, likely of arrogance, that surfaced their attacks. Lumping the response to these attacks with other reasons, however merited, has potentially diluted the focus.”

Russia is likely still in the black when they evaluate the risk and reward, Watkins said. That’s even if the attacks were the focal point of the sanctions.

Scroll through our slideshow above for other cybersecurity experts’ thoughts on the sanctions; plus, other cybersecurity news this week.

About the Author(s)

Edward Gately

Senior News Editor, Channel Futures

As news editor, Edward Gately covers cybersecurity, new channel programs and program changes, M&A and other IT channel trends. Prior to Informa, he spent 26 years as a newspaper journalist in Texas, Louisiana and Arizona.

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