“Once again, I can reject these accusations and once again I want to remind you that it was President [Vladimir] Putin who proposed that the American side agree and conclude agreements (with Russia) on cyber security,” Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov said on Monday, adding that Washington had not responded to the offer.
“As for the rest, if there have been attacks for many months, and the Americans could not do anything about it, it is probably not worth immediately groundlessly blaming the Russians. We didn’t have anything to do with it.”
Peskov’s remarks came after sources familiar with the matter said earlier in the day that email systems at the US Treasury and Commerce Departments were breached by hackers who are allegedly part of a Russian intelligence campaign.
The US Commerce Department confirmed there was a breach at one of its agencies and that they asked the Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency and the FBI to conduct investigations.
Although the Commerce Department did not mention which one of its agencies was targeted, but apparently that was the National Telecommunications and Information Administration, which helps determine policy for internet-related issues.
One of the sources said the hack was so serious that a National Security Council meeting was held at the White House on Saturday regarding the issue.
The sources said they feared the hacks uncovered so far might be the tip of the iceberg as several corporate officials said the attacks had been underway as early as this spring without being detected.
The Russian Foreign Ministry has also posted a statement on Facebook, describing the allegations as another unfounded attempt by the US media to blame Moscow for cyberattacks against American agencies.
This is not the first time such allegations are made against Russia. US intelligence agencies had previously claimed Moscow had meddled in the 2016 US presidential election with a campaign of email hacking and online propaganda aimed at sowing discord in the United States, hurting Democratic candidate Hillary Clinton in favor of Republican Donald Trump.
Both Trump and Russia repeatedly denied the accusations. Trump discredited the investigation by calling it a “witch hunt.”
Back in February, US media reported that American intelligence officials believed Russia was seeking to meddle in the 2020 US presidential election by trying to get Trump re-elected. Russia denied the allegation.
In September, Putin called for an agreement between Russia and the United States to expand their cooperation in the field of cybersecurity and prevent interference in one another’s elections.
Putin described the risk of large-scale confrontation in cyberspace as one of the greatest challenges of the time, proposing that the two countries reach an agreement to prevent major cyberspace incidents.