Putin calls Russian hackers ‘patriotically minded’ and ‘free-spirited’

Russian President Vladimir Putin has likened hackers to 'free-spirited artists' and says they are patriots eager to make their contribution.

Putin has also denied that Russia is guilty of sponsoring cyber-attacks on foreign countries, despite several accusations to the contrary.

Speaking at an annual economic forum in the Konstantinovsky Palace near St. Petersburg, Putin displayed a favourable opinion towards Russia-based hackers, calling them 'patriotically minded' and 'free-spirited.'

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“Hackers are free-spirited people, like artists. They read something that is happening in interstate relations, and if they're patriotically minded, they start making their contribution," he said.

At the same conference, Putin said that Russia never engaged in state-level hacking and that an American-led coalition was intent on stifling Russia's interests.

Russia has consistently denied allegations of sponsoring cyber-attack abroad, especially when it came to general elections in the United States or in other European countries. Recently, a leaked NSA investigation report revealed that Russian hackers hacked into the election-related software to launch a voter-registration themed spear-phishing campaign in the US last year.

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The NSA report also reveals that phishing e-mails sent out by state-sponsored Russian hackers contained Microsoft Word documents trojanised with a malicious Visual Basic script.

Russia hasn't been as forgiving towards cyber-attacks that were initiated in other countries. The country faced the largest number of WannaCry ransomware attacks that deeply affected the public sector, banks, railroad and mobile telephony.

“Humanity is dealing here with cyberterrorism. It’s an alarming signal, and not just a signal but a direct threat to the normal functioning of society, and important life-support systems,” said Frants Klintsevich, the deputy chairman of the Russian Senate’s defense committee.

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The Russians have also openly pointed their fingers at the United States, claiming that the latter perpetrated WannaCry ransomware attacks on Russia as 'revenge'.

“I respect the honesty of the United States. They threaten us with a cyberattack, and a cyberattack follows. It’s logical,” says Mikhail Delyagin, the director of the Institute of Problems of Globalization. A member of the Council for Digital Economy has termed the ransomware attack as an act of war.

While Russians are terming the WannaCry ransomware as a scourge of humanity, they are yet to act on many domestic hacker groups who routinely conduct cyber-attacks on foreign nations and political parties. For example, a hacker group named Pawn Storm received special mention from Emmanuel Macron's campaign team for perpetrating a series of cyber-attacks on their websites before the elections.