What Russians think on hacking allegations

Russian journalist Elena Kuznetcova
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Russian journalist Elena Kuznetcova

On June 12, Russian journalist Elena Kuznetcova, began a two-week internship at the Atlanta Journal-Constitution. There's been much talk in the United States during the past few months about Russians and hacking. Elena — a reporter for Fontanka.ru, an online newspaper in St. Petersburg, Russia — set out to answer the question most Americans have in their first encounter with her.

Do the Russian people believe hackers attacked the American electoral system?

That is the question that I’m being asked most often by colleagues in the United States. Honestly, I have no satisfying answer.

As a Russian citizen, I can’t believe absolutely the allegations of the American intelligence that supposes the system to be compromised. Nevertheless, there are no grounds to fully trust Russian President Vladimir Putin, who denies the accusations.

Trying to obtain as much information as possible, I called on some Russian experts to help reason out the issue from the Russian perspective.

Those experts started their comments with a standard phrase: “There can be no exact opinion because of the lack of facts.”

However, Michael Zimin, a technical director of the cybersecurity company TS Solution, contends that it’s possible to hide and fake anything on the Internet.

“Anyone can be attributed as a source of the attack,” Zimin said. “Russian speaking IT-specialists can live everywhere — in the USA, in the Commonwealth of Independent States, in Europe, even in Australia. They can be the citizens of any country and work for different organizations and government officials.”

Political expert Alexandr Konfisakhor seems more confident in terms of denying a hacking attack.

“Perhaps there was no attack. But the gossips about it are beneficial to all the sides,” Konfisakhor said. “They’re beneficial for Russia, as well as America, as well as the hackers, as well as intelligence. The attack is a kind of a folder with compromising material, which can be used against Donald Trump by the U.S. politicians.

“Russia is trying to revive itself as a powerful nation, empire,” Konfisakhor continued. “This status obliges to have influence over the international scene. Hackers can use the attack to increase prices of their services.”

While experts are arguing over the issue, Russian citizens are mostly joking about it.

“Demotivation” pictures with witty inscriptions are spreading rapidly over the Internet. “Chinese IT-experts who had hacked Pentagon servers were quite surprised to meet Russian school students there,” is written on one of the pictures. Another image shows a female motorist being stopped by a police officer. “It’s not my fault, officer,” she protests. “The Russian hacked my speedometer.”

In contrast, the American people are sure that there are some obvious signs of Russian involvement.

“There seems to be evidence that the Russians tried to influence the election, whether they did it personally or other people did it on their behalf,” said content marketer and brand strategist Carol S. Niemi, whom I met at an AJC political forum with readers on June 15. “But such things happen every day - it’s business as usual, all countries do it. We do it, too.”

Niemi wished the Russian-American relationship would be better: “We all have a common enemy - Islam terrorism - and should fight it.”

Sandy Springs Mayor Rusty Paul expressed a similar opinion.

“I would be astonished if the American government doesn’t use our technology capability trying to figure out what the Russians are doing. I’m sure we’re doing things we’re accusing Putin of. The problem has been that their activity has been in the public eye. We have a tremendous amount of pride and history in having independent elections, and it’s very concerning to have some foreign manipulations.”

Although the mayor hasn’t looked into the evidence of the Russian interference personally, he believes the accusations voiced by the American intelligence.

“It’s not very difficult to track down the source from where your problem has come in,” Paul added. “My son is a head of data security in a major corporation in Atlanta. He knows when the Chinese or the Russian people go lunch because the number of attacks decreases.”