The United States rolled out sweeping new sanctions on Thursday, blacklisting cyber actors the Donald Trump administration says are backed by Iranian intelligence and Lebanon-based targets it says are linked to Hezbollah.
The US Department of Treasury sanctioned two Lebanon-based companies, Arch Consulting and Meamar Construction, for alleged links to the Iranian-backed Shiite group. Hezbollah Executive Council official Sultan Khalifah As’ad, who the Treasury said had close links to the two companies, was also designated.
“Through Hezbollah’s exploitation of the Lebanese economy and manipulation of corrupt Lebanese officials, companies associated with the terrorist organization are awarded government contracts,” said Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin in a statement.
“The United States remains committed to targeting Hezballah and its supporters as they corruptly abuse Lebanese resources to enrich their leaders while the Lebanese people suffer from inadequate services,” he added.
Earlier this month, the Trump administration imposed sanctions on two former Lebanese ministers accused of providing political and economic favors to Hezbollah. The sanctions, which targeted Yusuf Finyanus and Ali Hassan Khalil, were aimed at tackling the rampant corruption that has fueled Lebanon’s worst economic crisis since the 1975-1990 civil war.
Foreign donors are pressuring the heavily indebted country to enact significant reforms and weed out government corruption in order to unlock much needed financial assistance. The massive blast that ripped through Beirut’s port last month caused as much as $4.6 billion in damage.
Also on Thursday, the United States slapped sanctions on 47 Iranian individuals and entities who, according to the Treasury, are involved in conducting cyber attacks and malware campaigns against perceived adversaries, including foreign governments, Iranian dissidents, journalists and international travel companies.
The administration said both Iran's newly sanctioned Advanced Persistent Threat 39 and a front company called Rana Intelligence Computing Company are owned or controlled by the Iranian Ministry of Intelligence and Security.
“The Iranian regime uses its Intelligence Ministry as a tool to target innocent civilians and companies and advance its destabilizing agenda around the world,” Mnuchin said. “The United States is determined to counter offensive cyber campaigns designed to jeopardize security and inflict damage on the international travel sector.”
The Treasury said the 45 individuals designated Thursday worked as managers, programmers and hackers at Rana providing support for cyber attacks on international businesses, air carriers and other perceived threats.
To hinder their efforts, on Thursday the FBI released eight sets of malware reportedly used by Rana to carry out computer intrusion activities. The release marked the first time the technical indicators have been publicly attributed to the Intelligence and Security Ministry by the US government, the Treasury statement said.