Russian President Vladimir Putin appears to have finally reversed his previous stance that Russia didn’t play any role in the 2016 election cyberattacks.
According to a New York Times report published on Thursday morning, Putin appeared to admit Russian citizens may have interfered in the 2016 presidential election while addressing reporters in St. Petersburg, comparing hackers to “artists” who pick their targets based on how they feel after get out of bed each morning.
“If [hackers] are patriotically minded, they start making their contributions — which are right, from their point of view — to the fight against those who say bad things about Russia,” Putin said cryptically.
While Putin is maintaining his original argument that no official Russian government agencies or employees were involved in the cyberattacks that plagued the 2016 presidential election, the remarks are the first admission from the Russian president that elements within his country sought to undermine last year’s pivotal election. Crowdstrike, which handled cybersecurity for the Democratic National Committee (DNC), wrote a detailed explainer on its website last year concluding that two sophisticated hacking groups with Russian ties named COZY BEAR and FANCY BEAR infiltrated DNC servers (emphasis ours):
Their tradecraft is superb, operational security second to none and the extensive usage of ‘living-off-the-land’ techniques enables them to easily bypass many security solutions they encounter. In particular, we identified advanced methods consistent with nation-state level capabilities including deliberate targeting and ‘access management’ tradecraft – both groups were constantly going back into the environment to change out their implants, modify persistent methods, move to new Command & Control channels and perform other tasks to try to stay ahead of being detected. Both adversaries engage in extensive political and economic espionage for the benefit of the government of the Russian Federation and are believed to be closely linked to the Russian government’s powerful and highly capable intelligence services.
Crowdstrike’s initial assessment was later backed by both the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) and the Office of the Director of National Intelligence just a month prior to the election, which both concluded that the hacks were consistent with previous Russian efforts to destabilize democracies in rival countries.
“Such activity is not new to Moscow—the Russians have used similar tactics and techniques across Europe and Eurasia, for example, to influence public opinion there,” the joint statement from DHS and DNI read. “We believe, based on the scope and sensitivity of these efforts, that only Russia’s senior-most officials could have authorized these activities.”
As the New York Times pointed out, Vladimir Putin has a pattern of denying Russia’s involvement in controversial matters, before openly admitting to it once the evidence becomes overwhelming, as he did with the 2014 annexation of Ukraine’s Crimean peninsula.
Tom Cahill is a senior editor for the Resistance Report based in the Pacific Northwest. He specializes in coverage of political, economic, and environmental news. You can contact him via email at [email protected], or follow him on Facebook by clicking here.