Russia Claims It Doesn't Engage in Cyberattacks After U.S. Reports New Hacks

The Russian embassy in Washington, D.C. has rejected allegations that Moscow was behind recent cyberattacks on the Treasury and Commerce departments, describing the claims as "unfounded" and suggesting that the Russian Federation does not engage in offensive cyber operations.

The White House confirmed this weekend that hackers had been monitoring internal agency email traffic at the two federal agencies. The Commerce breach was in the National Telecommunications and Information Administration, where officials draw up internet and telecommunications policy.

Though the U.S. has not officially accused any nation of responsibility, three people familiar with the matter told Reuters that Russia is suspected of the attacks. The incident was taken seriously enough to prompt a National Security Council meeting at the White House on Saturday, Reuters said.

The FBI said it was aware of reports regarding the hack and that it was "appropriately engaged," The Wall Street Journal reported.

The Russian embassy in Washington on Sunday dismissed allegations of Moscow's involvement. Russia has long denied launching a range of offensive cyber operations abroad, including in the U.S.

"We paid attention to another unfounded attempt of the U.S. media to blame Russia for hacker attacks on U.S. governmental bodies," the embassy said in a post on Facebook.

"We declare responsibly: malicious activities in the information space contradicts the principles of the Russian foreign policy, national interests and our understanding of interstate relations. Russia does not conduct offensive operations in the cyber domain."

American intelligence agencies, lawmakers, courts and U.S. allies abroad have all presented significant evidence detailing Russia's offensive cyber strategy, through which Moscow seeks to amplify its foreign clout, promote Russian interests and undermine its rivals.

Some attacks are linked to the FSB which is Russia's main intelligence organization, others to the GRU which is Russia's military intelligence body, and others to the SVR which is Russia's dedicated foreign intelligence service. These agencies and others compete for influence and favor with President Vladimir Putin.

Cyber attacks have in recent years become a relatively inexpensive but effective way for these competing factions to undermine Russia's rivals.

Russian officials claim Moscow does not pursue such operations, though if true it would make the country one of few major nations not to engage in offensive cyber operations.

Like Russia, most other countries also refuse to publicly confirm their involvement in cyber attacks, and it can be difficult to identify the origins of and ultimate responsibility for such operations.

The embassy also accused the U.S. of hamstringing Russia's efforts to promote bipartisan cyber security cooperation. "The Russian Federation actively promotes bilateral and multilateral cyber security agreements," the statement read.

"In this regard, we would like to remind our American colleagues of the initiative put forward by President Vladimir Putin on September 25 on a comprehensive program of measures to restore Russian-U.S. cooperation in the field of international information security."

"We have received no reply from Washington," the embassy added. "Many of our other suggestions to start constructive and equal dialogue with the U.S. remain unanswered."

Treasury building as reports link hack Russia
This file photo shows the Treasury Building in Washington, D.C. on September 29, 2014. Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images/Getty