Moscow could hand over wanted hackers to Washington if the United States extradites its own cybercriminals to Moscow, Russian President Vladimir Putin said on Sunday.
He made the comments ahead of an expected extradition request by US President Joe Biden when the pair meet in Geneva on Wednesday.
Biden resolved to take action after several cybersecurity breaches, including ransomware attacks, on US companies and infrastructure in recent months, which are believed to have originated in Russia.
The most recent ransomware incidents targeted the US's largest vehicle fuel pipeline operator Colonial Pipeline and top meat processor JBS earlier this month.
Ransom software works by encrypting victims' data. Typically hackers will offer the victim a key in return for cryptocurrency payments that can run into hundreds of thousands or even millions of dollars.
What did Putin suggest?
In an interview on state TV, Putin stressed that cybersecurity was one of the most important issues at present, because "turning all kinds of systems off can lead to really difficult consequences."
″If we agree to extradite criminals, then, of course, Russia will go for it. But only if the other side, in this case, the United States, agrees to the same thing,″ Putin said.
The Russian leader said he expected next week's meeting with Biden in Geneva to help establish bilateral dialogue and revive personal contacts.
He added that important issues for the two men included strategic stability, Libya and Syria, and the environment.
Why is hacking hitting the headlines?
Cybercrime is one of the main threats to the business community leading to losses of $1 trillion in 2020, according to a report by leading antivirus company McAfee.
According to the report,two thirds of surveyed companies were victims of some sort of hacking attempt in 2019.
The average interruption to business is 18 hours, with an average cost of half a million dollars each time.
The main forms of cybercrime are theft of intellectual property (IP) and financial crime, which account for three-quarters of losses.
Since the COVID-19 pandemic began, more business transactions have shifted online, making cybersecurity even more critical.
Some security experts believe that ransomware operators are even protected by the Russian government.
A hack last year of the SolarWinds software company was attributed to a Russian state-backed Russian group.
Microsoft warned recently that the group had re-emerged with a series of attacks on US government agencies, think tanks and other groups.
jc/mm (Interfax, Reuters)