The ransomware was apparently developed in the US, Putin said. “Microsoft’s management has made it clear that the virus originated from US intelligence services,” the Russian president stressed.
Putin added that launching cyber-viruses is “lifting a lid” that “could backfire on those who developed and created them,” including intelligence agencies.
The ransomware attack that affected thousands of computers all across the globe should encourage the international community to tackle cybersecurity on “the highest political level,” he added.
Last year, Moscow proposed discussing cybersecurity threats with Washington with the aim of drafting a bilateral agreement, but to no effect. “Unfortunately, they refused our proposal,” Putin said.
“The previous administration told us they were interested in reaching back to this proposal again, but nothing was actually done,” he explained.
Though the attack did not significantly affect Russia’s cyber infrastructure or the systems used by its banks and healthcare facilities, it is an issue of concern, Putin noted.
The outbreak of the virus, dubbed WannaCry, began last Friday. According to some cybersecurity experts, it is based on an NSA-developed tool that was leaked to the public by a group called Shadow Brokers. The virus, which is ravaging computer networks worldwide, encrypts user files and demands a ransom in cryptocurrency Bitcoin to release them.
Microsoft, which has criticized the American spy agency for its alleged role in creating the situation, released a patch for its no longer supported Windows XP operating system to prevent computers still running it from being infected. The tech company patched a vulnerability in its newer supported software last month after the leak was made public, but operating systems that were not updated are still vulnerable.
Putin also commented on the latest missile test by North Korea, calling the move unacceptable.
“I reiterated that we stand strongly against the expansion of the ‘nuclear club,’ including by means of those on the Korean Peninsula, by North Korea,” he said.
“We consider neither nuclear nor missile tests acceptable. We need to return to dialogue with the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea, stop intimidating it and find ways to resolve these problems peacefully.”
Regarding the latest test launch, “it didn’t pose a direct threat to Russia,” Putin said.
North Korea said the Sunday test involved a Hwasong-12 intermediate-range ballistic missile. The nation’s state news agency KCNA said the missile was capable of carrying a nuclear warhead and called the test a success.
Putin also explained Russia’s interest in maintaining contacts with Kurdish militias in Syria, saying it was necessary to prevent possible clashes. Turkey, which considers Kurdish fighters a threat to its national security, has criticized other nations, including Russia and the US, for any move that could help the Kurds.
“The Kurdish factor has a real impact on the situation in Syria. Kurdish forces are taking part in the fight against the so-called Islamic State [IS, formerly ISIS/ISIL] and are among the more capable in the field. That’s why we consider ourselves right to keep working contacts with them, if nothing else then to prevent possible clashes and risks to our service members,” he said.
Putin added that he had discussed Moscow’s position with his Turkish counterpart Recep Tayyip Erdogan during the latter’s visit to the Russian city of Sochi.
“I don’t think there is any reason for our Turkish partners to be concerned. We are in contact with them, our position is in the open, and I hope our Turkish partners understand it,” Putin explained.
He added that unlike the US, Russia does not supply arms to the Kurds.
“That’s what I told [President Erdogan] and I can tell you publicly, no secret about it. Unlike other nations, we don’t announce arms supply to Kurdish forces, and it’s not like they need our supplies. They have other sources to get arms from,” Putin remarked.