President Obama authorized additional sanctions in response to the Russian Government’s harassment of U.S. officials and alleged cyber operations during the 2016 U.S. election. On December 29, 2016 the President amended Executive Order (EO) 13964, which, in April 2015, created a targeted authority for the Government to respond effectively to significant cyber threats. The President also authorized actions intended to respond to harassment of U.S. diplomatic personnel in Russia and the release of a Joint Analysis Report (JAR) prepared by the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) and the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) that contains declassified information on Russian malicious cyber activity.
Originally, EO 13964 focused on cyber-enabled malicious activities that harmed or significantly compromised the provision of services by entities in a critical infrastructure sector. This included significant disruptions to the availability of a computer or network of computers, or causing a significant misappropriation of funds or economic resources, trade secrets, personal identifiers, or financial information for commercial or competitive advantage or private financial gain.
In light of Russia’s recent use of cyber means to undermine democratic processes, the president has amended the EO to cover additional activities, authorizing sanctions on individuals/entities who tamper with, alter, or cause misappropriation of information with the purpose or effect of interfering with or undermining election processes or institutions. Under this authority, the president has sanctioned nine entities and individuals, including two Russian intelligence services (the GRU and the FSB), four individual officers of the GRU and three companies that provided material support to GRU’s cyber operations.
These new sanctions highlight the importance of regular and diligent screening of transactions, as well as the need to periodically review existing screening practices to ensure that they are up to date. It is critical to remember that an individual who may have been an acceptable business partner one day may be on a sanctions list the next.