EU Council sanctions two Russian military intelligence officers over 2015 Bundestag hack

The Council of the European Union announced sanctions imposed on Russian military intelligence officers for 2015 Bundestag hack.

The Council of the European Union announced sanctions imposed on Russian military intelligence officers, belonging to the 85th Main Centre for Special Services (GTsSS), for their role in the 2015 attack on the German Federal Parliament (Deutscher Bundestag).

The 85th Main Centre for Special Services (GTsSS) is the military unit of the Russian government also tracked as APT28 (aka Fancy BearPawn StormSofacy GroupSednit, and STRONTIUM).

The APT28 group (aka Fancy BearPawn StormSofacy GroupSednit, and STRONTIUM) has been active since at least 2007 and it has targeted governments, militaries, and security organizations worldwide. The group was involved also in the string of attacks that targeted 2016 Presidential election.

“The Council today imposed restrictive measures on two individuals and one body that were responsible for or took part in the cyber-attack on the German Federal Parliament (Deutscher Bundestag) in April and May 2015.” reads the press release published by the Council. “This cyber-attack targeted the parliament’s information system and affected its ability to operate for several days. A significant amount of data was stolen and the email accounts of several members of parliament, including that of Chancellor Angela Merkel, were affected.”

Immediately after the attack the daily Der Spiegel speculated that the Russian Government was behind the attack.

EC Council

The attackers used a sophisticated strain of malware to violated the Bundestag network and syphoned sensitive data. The experts that analyzed the malicious code employed in the hack found many similarities with a piece of malware used in a previous attack against a German Government network that took place in 2014.

“The cyber attack on the “Parlakom” network was discovered in early May. At the parliamentary IT network 20,000 Bundestag accounts are connected – including German Chancellor Angela Merkel and other government officials.” continues the Der Spiegel.

EU’s sanctions imposed on Russian military officers include travel bans and asset freezes, they also block EU organizations and individuals from transferring funds to sanctioned entities and individuals.

The Council’s sanctions target a total of 8 persons and 4 entities and bodies.

“Sanctions are one of the options available in the Union’s framework for a joint diplomatic response to malicious cyber activities (the so-called cyber diplomacy toolbox), and are intended to prevent, discourage, deter and respond to continuing and increasing malicious behaviour in cyberspace,” a press release published earlier reads. “The relevant legal acts, including the names of the individuals and the body concerned, have been published in the Official Journal.”

Two of the officers sanctioned by the Council of the European Union are Dmitry Sergeyevich Badin and Igor Olegovich Kostyukov are known members of the GTsSS.

The two officers were also indicted by US DoJ in October 2018, along with other five members of the Russian Main Intelligence Directorate (GRU), for hacking, wire fraud, identity theft, and money laundering.

Kostyukov was also reached by an executive order issued by President Barack Obama in 2016 to impose sanctions on a number of Russian military and intelligence officials in response to the alleged hacking campaigns against the 2016 US Presidential Election.

Kostyukov is the current chief of the Main Directorate of the General Staff of the Armed Forces of the Russian Federation (GU/GRU).

“In this capacity, Igor Kostyukov is responsible for cyber-attacks carried out by the GTsSS, including those with a significant effect constituting an external threat to the Union or its Member States,” states the Council. “In particular, military intelligence officers of the GTsSS took part in the cyber-attack against the German federal parliament (Deutscher Bundestag) which took place in April and May 2015 and the attempted cyber-attack aimed at hacking into the Wi-Fi network of the Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW) in the Netherlands in April 2018.”

In July 2020, for the first-ever time, the EU has imposed economical sanctions on Russia, China, and North Korea following cyber-attacks aimed at the EU and its member states.

The EU Council announced sanctions imposed on a Russia-linked military espionage unit, as well as companies operating for Chinese and North Korean threat actors that launched cyber-attacks against the EU and its member states.

The sanctions were imposed as part of a legal framework established on May 17, 2019, which allows the EU to impose targeted restrictive measures to deter and respond to cyber-attacks aimed at the EU or its member states.

Pierluigi Paganini

October 23, 2020

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