US sanctions Hamas ‘cyber influence’ leader

The U.S. Treasury Department announced sanctions against a Hamas official they believe leads “the cyber influence department” of the organization’s military wing in Gaza.

The Office of Foreign Assets Control (OFAC) handed down sanctions on Hudhayfa Samir Abdallah al-Kahlut — also known as “Abu Ubaida.” 

U.S. officials claimed al-Kahlut has been involved in “procuring servers and domains in Iran to host the official al-Qassam Brigades website in cooperation with Iranian institutions.”

He has served as public spokesperson for the Izz al-Din al-Qassam Brigades since at least 2007. The Treasury Department said al-Kahlut has publicly threatened to execute civilian hostages kidnapped during the October 7 terrorist attacks in Israel. 

Brian Nelson, undersecretary of the Treasury for terrorism and financial intelligence, said the sanctions are designed to disrupt Hamas’ ability to conduct attacks both through cyberwarfare and the production of unmanned aerial vehicles (UAV). 

“Treasury, in coordination with our allies and partners, will continue to target Hamas’s facilitation networks wherever they operate, including in the cyber domain,” he said in a statement. 

The sanctions include two other officials allegedly involved in the production of mortars, mobile launchers for Grad rockets and UAVs. The European Union also announced sanctions against Hamas and several related entities on Friday. 

The actions come as concerns grow about the potential for the war between Hamas and Israel to spill over into the rest of the Middle East. Iran has threatened to launch retaliatory military attacks following Israel’s bombing of an embassy in Syria two weeks ago.  

The Cyber Av3ngers — an Iran-linked hacking group — also threatened to launch unspecified attacks in messages on its Telegram channel. 

The group was previously implicated in multiple attacks on U.S. water utilities throughout the fall. In February, U.S. officials sanctioned six Iranian government officials allegedly involved in the Cyber Av3ngers campaign. 

A water utility in Pennsylvania and other U.S. water utilities and organizations involved in water distribution confirmed cyberattacks throughout November and December. The top cybersecurity agency in the U.S. told reporters in December that it was tracking a small number of impacted organizations and reaching out directly to operators that may have been affected. Several of the devices were defaced with messages from Cyber Av3ngers.

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Jonathan Greig

Jonathan Greig

is a Breaking News Reporter at Recorded Future News. Jonathan has worked across the globe as a journalist since 2014. Before moving back to New York City, he worked for news outlets in South Africa, Jordan and Cambodia. He previously covered cybersecurity at ZDNet and TechRepublic.