USA accuses Russian government of hacking infrastructure

Media playback is unsupported on your device                  Media captionTrump

Media playback is unsupported on your device Media captionTrump"It certainly looks like Russia is behind nerve agent attack

The Trump administration announced sanctions Thursday against 19 Russian individuals and five organizations for meddling in the 2016 election and for other "destructive cyber-attacks" still targeting the US electrical grid and water systems.

According to a joint note from Homeland Security and the FBI, Kremlin-mandated hackers have tried several times, since March 2016, to infiltrate "many critical infrastructure sectors, such as energy, nuclear commercial establishments, water, aviation, and industry ".

The Department of Homeland Security and Federal Bureau of Investigation said in the alert that a "multi-stage intrusion campaign by Russian government cyber actors" had targeted the networks of small commercial facilities "where they staged malware, conducted spear phishing, and gained remote access into energy sector networks".

The United States on Thursday took its most notable action against Russia since Donald Trump became president, slapping sanctions on a group of Russian individuals and entities, including Moscow's intelligence services, for meddling in the 2016 U.S. election and malicious cyber attacks.

Russia's deputy foreign minister Sergei Ryabkov said Friday that Moscow would increase its list and threatened other possible measures.

The Trump administration has now sanctioned more than 100 individuals and entities.

"After obtaining access, the Russian government cyber actors conducted network reconnaissance, moved laterally and collected information pertaining to industrial control systems", reads the report.

Yevgeny Prigozhin, who ran the St. Petersburg-based Internet Research Agency, has been targeted by the USA sanctions along with 12 of the agency's employees.

"Even more must be done", Republican US Senator Lindsey Graham said.

The sanctions also affect the Russian Federal Security Service, or FSB, and six of its employees for cyberattacks more broadly, including those targeting Russian journalists, opposition figures, foreign politicians and US officials.

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Russian President Vladimir Putin has denied that his country meddled in the USA election or was involved in the poisoning in the United Kingdom.

Russia will expand its own "blacklist" of Americans in response to new United States sanctions announced by the Trump administration, a Russian minister said Friday.

The Edison Electric Institute, which represents investor-owned electric companies that provide electricity for about 220 million Americans, said the government informed energy grid operators a year ago of a threat targeting them.

US security officials have long warned that the United States may be vulnerable to debilitating cyber attacks from hostile adversaries.

The targets include officials working for the Russian military intelligence agency GRU.

The statement was issued shortly before Washington announced the blacklisting of five entities and 19 individuals for interfering in the 2016 USA presidential election and other malicious cyberattacks, including on America's energy grid.

Trump, who defeated Democrat Hillary Clinton in the presidential election, has called the Russian Federation story a hoax.

"Russia's behavior on the world stage is continuing to trouble us and we are continuing to press back in meaningful ways", it said, adding that sanctions did not mean the end of the ongoing USA conflicts with Russian Federation.

British Prime Minister Theresa May on Wednesday announced that her government would expel 23 Russian diplomats and told them to leave within a week.

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