Thursday, June 01, 2017

Putin: 'Patriotically inclined' Russian hackers could be behind election interference

MOSCOW — Jun 1, 2017

Russia’s president Vladimir Putin today for the first time appeared to acknowledge the possibility that Russian hackers could have been involved in the cyber-attacks that targeted the 2016 U.S. election, speculating that it could have been individual “patriotically inclined” Russian hackers who carried out the attacks.

Putin categorically denied that the Russian state would ever be involved in hacking, but the comments were nonetheless a shift from his previous flat rejections of allegations the attacks were linked to Russia.

He made the remarks during a media sitdown at an economic forum in St. Petersburg, when a journalist asked the Russian leader to comment on fears in Germany that Russian hackers might seek to influence the upcoming presidential election there with information leaks similar to those seen in the 2016 U.S. election.

Putin replied by suggesting that individual hackers might take it upon themselves to launch attacks, influenced by what they see in the news.

“Hackers are free people, like artists,” Putin said in the meeting, which was with editors from international news agencies.


U.S. intelligence agencies have said that they believe with a high degree of confidence that the DNC hack was carried out by hackers directed by Russian intelligence as part of a broader Kremlin effort to meddle in the American election. A declassified report from the Office of the Director of National Intelligence released in January said U.S. intelligence had concluded the campaign was ordered directly by Putin and was intended to tip the election in favor of Trump by harming Clinton.

The Obama Administration expelled 35 Russian diplomats in retaliation for the interference. Obama also imposed sanctions on several Russian organizations and individuals accused of assisting in the operation, including the head of the cyber division of Russia’s security service, the FSB, and two well-known cyber criminals.

U.S. intelligence and law enforcement officials have suggested that the hacking could have been carried out by criminal hackers, pressganged or hired into serving Russian intelligence, a practice it has been found to have employed in other cyber-operations.

Trump initially suggested he did not believe the allegations about the Russian operation before later accepting them.


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