DOJ And FBI Announce Joint Operation To Go After Russians

( In a press conference Wednesday, FBI Director Christopher Wray and Attorney General Merrick Garland outlined a recent FBI operation that disrupted “criminal Russian activity.”

During the briefing, the Attorney General first unveiled the latest indictment against Russian oligarch Konstantin Maloveev for sanctions violations and cited the seizure of “millions of dollars” from a financial institution in the US as proceeds traceable to Maloveev’s violations.

Director Wray then announced that the FBI had been engaged in a sophisticated court-approved operation that succeeded in disrupting a “botnet of thousands of devices.”

The operation removed malware from thousands of devices, mostly used by small businesses worldwide for network security, Wray explained, adding that the FBI then “shut the door the Russians had used to get into them.”

Wray said Tuesday’s “Darknet takedown struck a blow against Russian criminals.”

The botnet was built by the “Sandworm Team” of researchers from the Russian military intelligence agency, the GRU.

Sandworm had implanted malware known as “Cyclops Blink” on thousands of security appliances called Firebox devices that are used in home offices and small to mid-size businesses for network security. With the cooperation of WatchGuard, the maker of Firebox, the FBI was able to disrupt the botnet before it could be used.

The Justice Department’s announcement came the same day the administration enacted another round of targeted sanctions against Russian banks and some individuals.

The new sanctions hit Sberbank, which holds a third of Russia’s total banking assets, and Alfabank, Russia’s fourth-largest financial institution.

Energy transactions, however, were exempted from the latest sanctions.

New sanctions were also imposed on Russian President Vladimir Putin’s two daughters, Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov’s wife and daughter, and senior members of Russia’s security council.

In addition to the sanctions, President Biden signed an order banning Americans from investing in Russia, including a ban on venture capital and mergers.

The UK also froze Sberbank’s assets and announced that it would ban imports of Russian coal by the end of the year.

Both Alfabank and Sberbank said the new sanctions would have no significant impact on their operations.