Days after a reported secret meeting between Russian President Vladimir Putin and US President Donald, reports have suggested that the two countries may actually be teaming up on cyber security.
The creation of a joint cyber security working group is being talked about by both Moscow and Washington, Reuters cited Russia’s RIA news agency as saying on Thursday.
It comes after Trump earlier this month appeared to backtrack from the idea of partnering with Russia for the creation of a joint cyber security division.
However, the fresh speculation that the US and Russia are currently talking about a joint cyber security division was prompted by Andrey Krutskikh, a special presidential envoy on cyber security.
“The talks are underway … different proposals are being exchanged, nobody denies the necessity of holding the talks and of having such contacts,” Krutskikh reportedly told the RIA news agency this week.
Meanwhile Reuters quoted Svetlana Lukash, a Russian official who was at the recent G20 summit, after she said earlier this month that Putin and Trump had agreed to discuss cyber security questions, either via the United Nations or as part of a working group.
However, there is still no official confirmation of this, and US and European intelligence and security officials told Reuters they were not participating in the talks. They said talks were confined to mid-level political officials.
One of the unnamed officials said co-operation on cyber security was a “pipe dream” while Russia continues to deny that it hacked last year’s US presidential election, as three US intelligence agencies concluded in January.
Trump has continuously dismissed those conclusions, but he recently distanced himself from the idea after he was criticised for wanting to work with a country that has been widely accused of tampering with last year’s Presidential election.
Thomas Bossert, Trump’s top counterterrorism adviser, told reporters last week it was premature to suggest the United States would be talking to Russia about a possible cyber security “partnership.”
“A partnership suggests that you’ve reached a place where you believe that you have a trusted relationship and you’ve come to some common agreement on ideals and goals and behaviours,” he was reported as saying by Reuters.
“I don’t believe that the United States and Russia have come to that point yet in cyberspace,” Bossert said. “And until we do, we wouldn’t have the conversation about partnership. But we had to have a dialogue, and that’s where we’ll start.”
It is known that Trump had discussed the joint cyber plans with Vladimir Putin at the G20 summit in Hamburg, with the aim being to set a new precedent of co-operation.
Trump claimed at the time to have “strongly pressed” Putin about the alleged election meddling and said that it was “time to move forward in working constructively with Russia”.
He later wrote on Twitter: “Putin & I discussed forming an impenetrable Cyber Security unit so that election hacking, & many other negative things, will be guarded… and safe.”
However, just a few hours later he posted another Tweet which seems to back away from any arrangement, saying: “The fact that President Putin and I discussed a Cyber Security unit doesn’t mean I think it can happen. It can’t-but a ceasefire can,& did!”
In the run-up to the 2016 Presidential election, experts warned that it could be at risk from hacking after US authorities officially blamed Russia for hacking the Democratic National Committee (DNC).
It is now widely believed that Russia had a hand in affecting the outcome of the election, with the issue coming to a head in December when former President Barack Obama ordered the expulsion of 35 Russian diplomats and their families.
Britain’s GCHQ has also warned that UK democracy is at risk from Russian nation-state cyber attacks, despite Putin’s insistence that the Russian government has never been involved in any such activities.