THE European Union (EU) launched a new legal tool allowing it to impose sanctions in relation to cyber attacks, following a foiled attack in the Netherlands in 2018 on the global chemical weapons watchdog.
Western capitals accuse Russia of being behind the attempt to hack into the network of the Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW) in The Hague.
It had been investigating the poisoning of former Russian double agent, Sergei Skripal in Britain, as well as the alleged use of chemical weapons by the Syrian government.
Under the new legal framework, the EU can sanction people or entities “that are responsible for cyber attacks or attempted cyber attacks, who provide financial, technical or material support for such attacks or who are involved in other ways,” the bloc said in a statement.
The measures – which include an EU entry ban and asset freeze – can also be applied to associated people or entities. Anyone on the sanctions list is unable to receive funds from within the EU.
British Foreign Secretary, Jeremy Hunt, welcomed the “decisive action.”
“For too long now, hostile actors have been threatening the EU’s security through disrupting critical infrastructure, attempts to undermine democracy and stealing commercial secrets and money running to billions of euros,” he said.
Brussels had begun ratcheting up its response to malicious cyber activities months before it emerged in October that the Netherlands had expelled Russian spies due to the attempted cyber attack on the OPCW.
However, the issue gave added impetus to the bloc’s initiatives, which include measures to mitigate potential threats and improve cooperation among member states.