The remarks follow US reports that US military hackers have placed malware within Russia’s power grid, creating the potential for a devastating attack
Russia has acknowledged it is a “possibility” that the US has implanted malicious code into its power grid.
Dmitri Peskov, a spokesman for Vladimir Putin, said US reports that US government agents had infiltrated the Russian grid indicated there was a “theoretical possibility” that the US was in a position to carry out cyber-attacks on Russia’s power infrastructure.
But he noted that US president Trump had already denied knowledge of any such cyber-infiltration.
“If one assumes that some government agencies do this without informing the head of state, then of course this may indicate that cyberwar against Russia might be a hypothetical possibility,” Peskov said.
He said that “vital areas” of Russia’s economy are under “continuous attacks from abroad”, and that the government continued to counter those attacks to prevent damage to the country’s economy.
Peskov’s remarks were in response to claims by the New York Times over the weekend that US agents had stepped up their efforts to target Russian power facilities.
The paper said the US had been successful in placing malicious code inside elements of the Russian power network.
The military hacking campaign intended to enable the US to carry out attacks on the Russian power grid in the event of a major conflict, the paper said.
Russia’s energy ministry said the country’s grid has a “high level of security”, with most critically important facilities being connected to the state defence system.
“Systemic and successful work is being carried out to use Russian technology and equipment to eliminate such risks,” the ministry said.
Peskov said Russia had tried repeatedly to initiate international cooperation to “jointly counter all forms of cybercrime”, but had been rebuffed by the US.
The US considers Russia a major source of international cyber-crime, including efforts to disrupt the US’ 2016 presidential elections.
The US administration and Congress last year gave new authority to the military’s Cyber Command to carry out hacking campaigns, leading to the efforts described in the Times’ report.
The paper reported unnamed administration officials as saying they did not believe the president had been informed in detail of the efforts to infiltrate Russia’s energy systems.
Political scientist Thomas Rid told the BBC he was sceptical of the report, since such publicity would immediately lead the Russian government to track down and eliminate any malware that had been put into place.
Industrial systems security firm Dragos said last week it had detected a threat group it calls Xenotime scanning power utilities in the US and Asia-Pacific.
Xenotime is best known for a 2017 attack on a Saudi oil and gas facility that utilised malware called Triton or Trisys, which researchers have linked to Russian state hackers.