Russia has made a surprise move in the ongoing cyber cold war that exists between it and the United States, as well as many Western nations.

According to Reuters, the RIA news agency reported that Federal Security Service (FSB) head Alexander Bortnikov had said on Wednesday that Russia would work together with the United States to locate cyber criminals.

This admission comes as many nations bear the brunt of cyberattacks and ransomware campaigns conducted by so called criminal gangs located either in Russia, or parts of Eastern Europe.

Russian hacking

The most well-known, state-backed attack groups, including Fancy Bear, APT29, and the Lazarus Group, are identified by the West as being linked to the Russian government and controlled by Russian intelligence services.

The Bortnikov co-operation pledge with the US was notable in that he never promised his country would extradite any Russian hackers or cyber criminals.

Russia routinely refuses to extradite wanted criminals to other nations, as evidenced by its refusal to hand over the former GRU operatives identified as being responsible for the Novichok poisoning of Sergei Skripal and his daughter in Salisbury, England in 2018.

But the Russian pledge comes after US President Joe Biden and Russia’s President Vladimir Putin held a three hour face to face meeting in Geneva last week.

Biden warning

Biden and Putin reportedly spent much of the meeting talking about cybersecurity issues, with Biden reportedly warning Putin of ‘retaliation’ if Russia attacks a list of 16 ‘critical’ facilities in America.

Ever since 2011 the United States said it reserved the right to retaliate with military force against a cyber attack from a hostile state.

However this is highly unlikely against Russia.

That said, President Biden has often stated that countries such as Russia have a responsibility to tamp down on cybercrime originating in their countries.

Last month, British Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab publicly warned Russia it cannot continue to shelter criminal gangs carrying out ransomware attacks on Western nations.

Tom Jowitt

Tom Jowitt is a leading British tech freelancer and long standing contributor to Silicon UK. He is also a bit of a Lord of the Rings nut...

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