Putin open to handing cyber criminals over to US

Russian leader could hand over online intruders in a reciprocal agreement

Russian president Vladimir Putin opened the door to potentially extraditing cyber criminals to the US in an interview with state media on Sunday. 

The revelation comes ahead of a summit between Putin and US president Joe Biden in Geneva on Wednesday. The two leaders will discuss ways to "restore predictability and stability to the US-Russia relationship." 

In the interview, Putin said that handing over cyber criminals to the US would have to be part of a reciprocal agreement.

"If we agree to extradite criminals, then of course Russia will do that, we will do that, but only if the other side, in this case the United States, agrees to the same and will extradite the criminals in question to the Russian Federation," he told Russian media. 

Historically, the US has relied on picking up Russian criminals when traveling outside Russia’s borders. A formal extradition treaty for cyber criminals would make it easier for US law enforcement to apprehend Russian operators and bring them to justice. 

The problem with an extradition arrangement is that many Russian cyber crime operations are allegedly state-sponsored or involve operators directly employed by Russian intelligence services. These include the attack on software provider SolarWinds, which compromised a range of US government agencies. Biden issued sanctions against 32 Russian entities and officials in April and expelled ten of its diplomats. However, the head of Russia's Foreign Intelligence Service (SVR) denied allegations that it was involved in the attacks last month. 

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More recently, Microsoft identified a new flurry of attacks on over 150 US government agencies, which it said came from the same attackers responsible for the SolarWinds incident. The White House also blamed last month's ransomware attack on JBS Foods, which affected US meat production, on a Russian state-sponsored hacking group. 

Biden has repeatedly warned Russia that the US won't stand for cyber attacks. He said the US would "respond in a robust and meaningful way" to harmful activities from Russia earlier this month. 

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