"Homeland Security and the Federal Bureau of Investigation view this activity as a multi-step intrusion campaign by Russian government agents who targeted small business networks, where they launched malicious programs, made phishing attempts, and retrieved remote access to energy networks", the reports states.
"Threat actors have targeted government entities and the energy, water, aviation, nuclear and critical manufacturing sectors, and, in some cases, have leveraged their capabilities to compromise victims' networks", the alert said.
The list of Russians now under US sanctions includes the 13 indicted last month by USA special counsel Robert Mueller as part of his Russia-related investigation into alleged election interference.
The Treasury Department sanctioned a Russian national nicknamed Putin's Chef on Thursday as part of new measures against individuals and entities accused of directly meddling in the 2016 US election. Russia's violation of several global treaties, its refusal to punish Russian hackers, and its illegal military involvement in neighboring countries make any sort of joint agreement with Russia on cybersecurity a fool's errand.
The Trump administration also joined Germany and France in publicly backing the United Kingdom over the attack, saying there was "no plausible alternative explanation". "As our midterm elections approach, we must send a clear message that attacks on our political process will not be tolerated".
The sanctions, targeting five Russian organizations and 19 individuals, will generally block them from traveling to the United States, freeze any assets in the country and bar USA businesses and individuals from doing business with them.
Malicious email campaigns dating back to late 2015 were used to gain entry into organizations in the United States, Turkey and Switzerland, and likely other countries, Symantec said at the time, though it did not name Russian Federation as the culprit. "We're taking it very seriously, as I think are many others".
The news comes just days after the White House followed the United Kingdom government in blaming Russian Federation for last year's NotPetya cyber attacks, which affected hundreds of companies, including Maersk, Cadbury's, Reckitt Benckiser and TNT Express, among others. The U.S. officials the energy industry targets were chosen deliberately.
A US government alert to industry says the hackers deleted activity logs to try to cover their tracks.
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The allies said in a joint statement that Russia's failure to respond to Britain's "legitimate request" for an explanation "further underlines its responsibility". We may take additional steps, which we will calibrate in accordance with our own interests and, of course, the need to not suspend dialogue completely in order to at least begin stabilizing bilateral relations with Washington ...
A former senior DHS official familiar with the government response to the campaign said that Russia's targeting of infrastructure networks dropped off after the publication in the fall of Symantec's research and an October government alert, which detailed technical forensics about the hacking attempts but did not name Russian Federation. "This is just one of a series of ongoing actions we're taking to counter Russian aggression", one USA official told reporters. Yesterday Trump national security adviser H.R. McMaster called for further USA action against Russian Federation as punishment for crimes in Syria, "in a fiery address at an event marking the seventh year of the Syrian Civil War", as Politico's Matthew Nussbaum put it.
Russian Federation has shown a willingness to leverage access into energy networks for damaging effect in the past. The NYT notes that in 2013, researchers had already linked Russian hackers to hundreds of attacks on energy operators in both Europe and the US.
The Trump administration is accusing Russian Federation of a new and ongoing operation to penetrate the US energy grid.
It was the third time Cantwell and other senators had asked for such a review. He said it showed no "new work" on the part of the Trump administration.
The cyber assaults past year targeted energy and nuclear power stations in the United States and Europe.
The department's U.S. Computer Emergency Readiness Team says the operation targeted smaller American commercial facilities.
"This is old news, and our assistance and cooperation with the various investigations remains the same today", said Alan Futerfas, who represents the company.