While people in the U.S. sat huddled around their television sets and computers transfixed by the ongoing drama concerning alleged “Russian hackers” subverting the 2016 presidential elections, Moscow noted that not a single day passes without hacking attacks on Russia coming from United States territory. However, Russian officials declined to point the blame directly at Washington, citing the impossibility of identifying the culprits of such cyber attacks.
"Hacking attacks that are being carried out from the territory of the United States are recorded every day. Including attacks on the president's website. It's true," Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov told members of the press Thursday.
However, when asked about whether the Russian government feels that state security and intelligence agencies or non-state actors are involved in the attacks, Peskov responded in the sardonic manner typical of the country's officials.
"I wouldn't like to amuse the public by saying that official Washington is behind it,” he said. “A hacking attack carried out from the territory of some country cannot mean that the authorities have anything to do with it."
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State Department spokesperson Heather Nauert called the denial “propaganda,” adding that the accusation is unsurprising, according to CNN.
U.S. news outlets, citing reports by the country's intelligence agencies, have been obsessively reporting on accusations that the Kremlin has been behind alleged Russian hacking attacks and “propaganda” from Moscow-backed media, including English-language broadcaster RT, meant to tip the electoral balance in favor of former reality television personality and billionaire, Donald Trump. Russian officials, however, have dismissed the accusations, claiming that Trump's foe and former first lady, Hillary Rodham Clinton, lost simply due to her campaign's unpopularity and failure to connect to U.S. voters.
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On Thursday, former FBI Director James Comey testified at a hearing that in the late summer of 2015, he became aware of a “massive effort” by Russia-connected hackers aimed at governmental and nongovernmental agencies, including the Democratic Party. According to Comey, the Russian hackers deployed “overwhelming technical efforts” accompanied by an “active-measures campaign” by the Kremlin, a reference to alleged Russian efforts to influence world events through misinformation, press campaigns and the co-opting of domestic groups within the U.S.
Moscow officials have bristled at the charge, deriding stories of “Russian hackers seeking to blow up the world in the style of James Bond,” as Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov said in a recent press conference, while noting the U.S. track record of interfering in Russia's own domestic affairs.
“IP addresses can be simply made up. Do you know how many such specialists there are?” Russian President Vladimir Putin asked NBC News reporter Megyn Kelly last Friday in a response to a question about alleged Russian “fingerprints” belonging to those involved in the hacking attacks. Continuing, Putin explained, "there are such IT specialists in the world today and they can arrange anything and then blame it on whoever … This is not our problem. The problem is in U.S. politics. That is the problem.”
“As for interference, you should have seen what you colleagues are doing here (in Russia),” the head of state added. “They have simply barged into our internal politics with their shoes on, walking all over us, chewing gum. They are just having fun.”
“This is systemic, years-long, gross, absolutely unceremonious interference in our domestic policy, including the level of diplomatic missions,” Putin noted. “Let us end this – you will feel better, and we will feel better.”
Russian officials have also frequently pointed to the technical prowess of U.S. state security agencies like the CIA.
In March, whistleblowing website WikiLeaks released a cache of documents known as Vault 7 that uncovered the CIA's global hacking program. The documents revealed that the program employed about 5,000 professionals by the end of 2016 who managed to produce over a thousand hacking systems and cyber weapons meant to attack smart phones, computers, and other internet-connected devices such as smart televisions. Many of the hacking systems were devised abroad before being retooled by the alleged CIA hackers, thus carrying the “fingerprints” of foreign actors from China, Russia and other countries.