Russian President Vladimir Putin deemed the cyberattack on the Democratic National Committee (DNC), a public service. The attack saw hackers stealing thousands of emails from the DNC, which were later leaked by the whistleblowing platform WikiLeaks, just days before US Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton's nomination was announced. Putin, however, asserted that Russia had no hand in the DNC hack.
"Listen, does it even matter who hacked this data?'' Putin said in an interview, Bloomberg reported. "The important thing is the content that was given to the public. There's no need to distract the public's attention from the essence of the problem by raising some minor issues connected with the search for who did it. But I want to tell you again, I don't know anything about it, and on a state level Russia has never done this."
Several cybersecurity firms, including CrowdStrike, Fidelis Security and FireEye's Mandiant have concluded that the malware used in the DNC breach was linked to Russian intelligence services. Additionally, US officials have also accused Russia of having a hand in the hacking, in efforts to influence the US elections. However, Kremlin officials have categorically denied any knowledge of the attacks.
Following Putin's comments, the Clinton campaign hit back, accusing the Russian president of endorsing disruptions of the US elections by characterising the cyberattack as a public service. "Unsurprisingly, Putin has joined Trump in cheering foreign interference in the U.S. election that is clearly designed to inflict political damage on Hillary Clinton and Democrats," said Jesse Lehrich, spokesperson for the Clinton campaign. "This is a national security issue and every American deserves answers about potential collusion between Trump campaign associates and the Kremlin."
The cyberattacks against US have since accelerated with further indications of Russia based hackers launching attacks. In late August, CrowdStrike reported about Washington-based think tanks focusing on researching Russia being targeted by hackers. According to CrowdStrike the hacker group believed to be affiliated to Russia's Federal Security Service, Cozy Bear or APT29 was behind the breaches.
Putin, however, claimed that even if Russia desired to influence the US elections, it did not necessarily comprehend the nuances of US politics to successfully do so. "To do that you need to have a finger on the pulse and get the specifics of the domestic political life of the U.S.," he said. "I'm not sure that even our Foreign Ministry experts are sensitive enough."
Putin also said that given the level of sophistication of the current crop of cybercriminals, it would be nearly impossible to accurately attribute the attacks. "You know how many hackers there are today?" Putin said. "They act so delicately and precisely that they can leave their mark — or even the mark of others — at the necessary time and place, camouflaging their activities as that of other hackers from other territories or countries. It's an extremely difficult thing to check, if it's even possible to check. At any rate, we definitely don't do this at a state level."
Hillary Clinton recently said that if elected, she would like the US to "lead the world in setting the rules in cyberspace," adding that under her regime, the US would treat cyberattacks "just like any other attack", indicating the use of military action in response to such attacks.