Russian President Vladimir Putin has compared hackers to “artists” whose natural creative and patriotic urges could have compelled them to spontaneously carry out a series of cyber attacks against perceived Kremlin opponents.
Speaking at the St Petersburg Economic Forum on Thursday, Mr. Putin reiterated denials that Kremlin engaged in cyber espionage “at the government level.”
“I can imagine that some do it deliberately, staging a chain of attacks in such a way as to cast Russia as the origin of such an attack. Modern technologies allow that to be done quite easily.”
“They got up today and read that something is going on internationally. If they are feeling patriotic they will start contributing, as they believe, to the justified fight against those speaking ill of Russia. Is that possible? In theory, yes,” he said.
“If they have patriotic leanings, they may try to add their contribution to the fight against those who speak badly about Russia,” he said.
He added: “At the government level, we never engage in this. This is what is most important.”
Mr. Vladimir Putin went on to say that he believed the real perpetrators could have disguised themselves to make it look like the attacks came from Russia.
He appeared to acknowledge that independent Russian individuals may well have been behind notorious hacks such as that against the Democratic National Convention during last year’s US election campaign but insisted his government never was, chalking such allegations up to “Russo-phobic hysteria” in the US.
Despite widely held assessments by U.S. intelligence community that Russia engaged in hacking to influence the outcome of the presidential election, Mr. Vladimir said that “we never engage in that at the state level,” the Associated Press reported.
Instead, he said some evidence pointing at the Russian participation in cyber attacks could have been falsified in an attempt to frame his country.
The alleged attacks include the hacking and leaking of emails from the Democratic National Convention during the US election campaign, in an apparent attempt to embarrass Hillary Clinton.
Russian hackers were also blamed when a huge trove of emails from Emmanuel Macron’s campaign was leaked online ahead of the French presidential election last month.
Putin scoffed at suggestions that hackers could sway an election.
“I’m deeply convinced that no hackers can radically influence another country’s election campaign,” he said. “No hackers can influence election campaign in any country of Europe, Asia or America.