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Combatting cyber threats: U.S. sanctions Iranian actors over water infrastructure attacks

  • Combatting cyber threats: U.S. sanctions Iranian actors over water infrastructure attacks
  • The U.S. imposes sanctions on officials from the Iranian Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) for cyber attacks on critical infrastructure.
  • The Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency (CISA) focuses efforts to support vulnerable sectors like water and wastewater utilities.

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The U.S. Department of the Treasury has sanctioned officials from the Iranian Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) responsible for cyber attacks against critical infrastructure, according to an official statement.

This action responds to recent actions by actors affiliated with the IRGC, in which they hacked technology by Israeli company Unitronics in water and wastewater facilities. A group called “CyberAv3ngers”, affiliated with the IRGC, claimed responsibility for the cyber attack targeting the municipal water system of Aliquippa, in Pennsylvania, and other water systems across the country. There was no disruption of critical services and the incidents were remediated by the U.S. in coordination with the private sector and other countries affected.

However, the Treasury offices warn that “unauthorized access to critical infrastructure systems can enable actions that harm the public and cause devastating humanitarian consequences” and that cyber attacks “are destabilizing and potentially escalatory”.

The U.S. Department of the Treasury has sanctioned officials from the Iranian Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) responsible for cyber attacks against critical infrastructure

Under Secretary of the Treasury for Terrorism and Financial Intelligence, Brian E. Nelson, referred to the deliberate targeting of critical infrastructure as “an unconscionable and dangerous act” in the statement, and warned that “the United States will not tolerate such actions and will use the full range of our tools and authorities to hold the perpetrators to account.”

The six sanctioned persons are designated as leaders or officials of the Revolutionary Guard Corps Cyber-Electronic Command (IRGC-CEC). The sanctions prohibit American companies and people from doing business with the six individuals.

The U.S. Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency (CISA) is focusing on supporting what they consider “target-rich, cyber-poor” entities like water and wastewater utilities by providing resources like the recently released Incident Response Guide for the water and wastewater sector.

CISA considers a few nations “Nation-Sate Cyber Actors”, including China, Russia, North Korea and Iran, posing a threat due to sophisticated malicious cyber activity aimed at prolonged system intrusion. Just last week, U.S. authorities accused hackers linked to the Government of China of a cyber attack against critical targets that include the water, transportation and energy sectors.

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