Putin's Top Spy Says Russia And U.S. Are Teaming Up On Cybersecurity
Gen. Alexander Bortnikov, head of Russia’s State Security Service, the FSB, recently announced that the United States and Moscow are back to cooperating on cybersecurity matters.
“We are maintaining working contacts by our experts and special unit heads with the Central Intelligence Agency, the Federal Bureau of Investigation and the Drug Enforcement Agency,” Bortnikov said, according to The Daily Beast.
The Russian official also said that such relationships should exist no matter the foreign policy situation.
One source told The Daily Beast that “there is indeed some consultation at a practical level, but for Washington’s intelligence professionals it’s a very delicate, very dangerous game, complicated enormously by the inclinations and prejudices of President Donald J. Trump.”
The CIA and DEA had no comment on Bortnikov’s statements, and the FBI did not respond to questions, the publication said.
Michael Daniel, formerly the coordinator of cybersecurity strategy on President Barack Obama’s National Security Council, said “the U.S. and Russia do have some areas of common interest in cybersecurity where limited cooperation might be beneficial,” but conceded that “given Russia’s interference in our electoral process and other on-going conflicts between our countries, any cybersecurity engagement would necessarily be limited.”
David Kris, a former assistant attorney general at the National Security Division of the Justice Department, echoed Daniel’s concerns:
“It is hard not to hear in Mr. Bortnikov’s current statement an echo of Vladimir Putin's prior offer, made onstage in Helsinki, to host members of Bob Mueller’s investigative team in Russia and to assist them through a ‘joint working group on cyber-security, the establishment of which we discussed during our previous contacts.’ As President Putin said then, ‘Any specific material’ indicating Russian election interference that Mueller’s team can produce, ‘we are ready to analyze together.’ At the time, President Trump described this as an ‘incredible offer’ from his Russian counterpart. We should all hope that the US officials who are implementing this new agreement are more sophisticated and careful than their President."
Trump has repeatedly displayed an affinity for the Russian president. After their first meeting in 2017, Trump tweeted: "Putin & I discussed forming an impenetrable Cyber Security unit so that election hacking, & many other negative things, will be guarded."
Later the same day, the president back-tracked, tweeting: "The fact that President Putin and I discussed a Cyber Security unit doesn't mean I think it can happen. It can't-but a ceasefire [in Syria] can,& did!"
The Daily Beast noted that Russia has spent the past year beefing up protection for the country’s infrastructure from cyberattacks and focused on preventing criminal hacking attempts.
Meanwhile, “Trump's Department of Homeland Security has made significant cuts in two key task forces of its Cyber Security and Infrastructure Agency that were created in response to Russian meddling in the 2016 elections for the purpose of protecting election infrastructure and thwarting foreign social media disinformation campaigns.”
And Russia’s cyberwarfare is likely to continue: “Unfortunately, the White House does not seem to recognize that, for the Kremlin and the FSB, cyberspace is a domain of warfare against anyone, foreign or domestic, who opposes the Putin regime.”