Ahead of an upcoming summit of European leaders, the Netherlands and the United Kingdom have sent a memo to EU member-states, urging to push the bloc to update its sanctions regime to include hacker attacks, Bloomberg reported.
The initiative followed accusations against Russian and Chinese nationals, who allegedly attempted to conduct cyberattacks on a number of international institutions in Europe and the United States.
“We urgently need to implement a similar regime to address malicious cyber activity. The pace of events has accelerated considerably,” making “the introduction of such a regime a pressing priority,” they wrote in the memo, obtained by Bloomberg.
According to the media outlet, a group of countries, including Estonia, Lithuania, Finland and Romania, is seeking to introduce a sanctions regime that would target individuals and entities responsible for cyberattacks.
The group is reportedly suggesting that cyber penalties be imposed for attacks on information systems, cyber-enabled theft of intellectual property and malicious cyber activities from state or non-state actors, “whose behavior was explicitly or tacitly condoned by a foreign government.”
In addition, the countries recommended that the EU should also mull over sanctioning activities related to election interference.
“The lack of an international response leads” actors to conclude that malicious cyber activity is “low cost,” the countries wrote. “Restrictive measures would be a powerful tool to change behavior through signaling at a political level that malicious cyber activity has consequences.”
The EU has been considering a cyber sanctions regime since 2015, and the discussion of the proposed system update is expected to take place during the summit of European leaders in Brussels next week.
Last Thursday, Dutch Defense Minister Ank Bijleveld claimed that four Russians from the GRU had been expelled from the Netherlands for purportedly attempting to hack into the OPCW’s computer system.
The alleged incident took place in April, when they ostensibly parked a car full of electronic equipment outside the organization’s headquarters in The Hague.
The Russian Foreign Ministry, for its part, has dismissed the accusations as “Western spy mania,” and handed a note of protest to the Dutch ambassador, stressing that the incident was a “provocation in connection with Russia’s position in the OPCW.”
The ministry further stated that the Netherlands’ participation in anti-Russian campaigns “inflicts irreparable damage upon bilateral relations.”
The Netherlands’ accusations came shortly after British authorities claimed “with high confidence” that the GRU was “almost certainly” responsible for a wave of hack attacks on political institutions, media outlets and infrastructure across the globe, including the UK.
Reacting to the allegations, Russia’s Embassy to the UK said that London’s accusations lacked proof and were part of a disinformation campaign.
“This statement is irresponsible. As usual, it is not supported by any evidence and is just another element of the anti-Russian campaign conducted by the British government.”
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