BELGRADE – The hacking of Democratic presidential nominee and former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton’s campaign and the Democratic National Committee’s (DNC) emails allegedly by Russia and US warnings for a response have raised questions about cyberwarfare backed by governments or groups with big budgets that are difficult to fight against, Andrey Yarnykh, head of strategic projects at Kaspersky Lab, told New Europe in Belgrade.
“Unfortunately the level of mutual accusations went up to the government level,” Yarnykh said in an interview on the sidelines of a conference by the International Academy of Television and Radio (IATR) on terrorism and electronic media.
“As for the hacker attacks, it’s very difficult to talk about who is the author because hackers are very smart people and they just mask their actions. Even if you know where the attack came from, you cannot be sure that it has the virus inside,” the Moscow-based expert said.
Regarding the attacks on Clinton’s campaign and the DNC, Yarnykh said there are certain interests behind those attacks. “Most conclusions are made not on the basis of technical things but on suppositions about who is interested. But there are not technical facts signifying that this is due to some technical things. Even if they are some technical data, they are not reliable because we can easily fake them,” he said.
“There was a problem when the Kaspersky laboratory was under attack so we see all the massive data of information but we cannot say who was behind this attack. We can only think who is interested in this attack,” Yarnykh said.
“The solution is the prohibition of cyber weapons,” he said, adding that technologically advanced, well-developed weapons can target critical infrastructure and the structure of the Internet networks threatening the population.
Former US ambassador to Moscow Michael McFaul tweeted on October 8 that “even during the Cold War, we negotiated with Moscow to control/regulate nuclear weapons. We now need to do the same with cyber”.
He accused the Russian government of stealing the DNC emails and then giving them to Wikileaks, “another foreign agent, to influence US domestic politics”.
McFaul warned Moscow that if Russian cyber attacks the US and others, they should expect a reaction.
“If Russia continues to steal data from Americans, there has to be a response. We also need new norms and treaties to regulate this behavior” McFaul tweeted.
Yarnykh told New Europe that he favours McFaul’s idea for a treaty to control cyber weapons. “We support this idea and big software companies like, for example, Microsoft, they support this idea also,” he said.
Yarnykh said it’s difficult to say whether there would be less focus on cyber attacks after the US election on November 8. “We hope that the understanding that these cyber weapons are dangerous will be at high level. When we talk about this problem, we ask to put this problem on the UN level for coordination among countries not to use these weapons so we have certain consultations with our foreign ministry on this,” Yarnykh said.
Asked if governments develop cyber weapons, the head of strategic projects at Kaspersky Lab said there is no factual evidence. “But we have a feeling when we look at these codes, we see that the budget allocated for information is in accordance with the budget of big government structures or big cyber groups,” he said.
“It’s very difficult for us to fight against those viruses because we fight not with individual virus writers but with very big groups with big budgets,” Yarnykh said.
Asked if Russia has cyber weapons, Yarnykh said, “They have the instruments that we consider as cyber weapons but we have no evidence that behind them are government structures. There no official cyber troops, so few countries declare about it”.