Biden’s naivete about Russian cyber warfare puts America in danger

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In September, the Biden Administration released back to Russia the world’s most dangerous cybercriminal, Alexei Burkov, after Trump’s Justice Department had taken great pains to extradite him from Israel.

From early 2009 till August 2013, 31-year old Burkov operated a website called “Cardplanet,” which sold stolen numbers of credit and debit cards, many of which belonged to US citizens. Fraudulent purchases in the amount of $20 million were made on US credit cards, as a result of stolen data traded on Burkov’s website. He also ran another website where elite hackers advertised stolen personal information, hacking tools and money laundering services. Instead of serving a maximum sentence of 15 years in US prison, the cyber criminal was deported to his native Russia.

Russian cyber criminals like Burkov have extorted millions of dollars in ransom from US businesses in return for unlocking infected computer networks. But the main value of highly-skilled cyber criminals like Burkov for Russian President Putin is not how much ransom he can gain, but rather, what these hackers can do for their country.

While President Biden refuses to hold Putin accountable for cyberattacks that emanate from “Russia-based” hackers, he must be aware that Russian spy agencies routinely use third-party hackers to advance the goals of the Kremlin. This tactic gives Russia plausible deniability in high-profile cases, including Moscow’s cyber-enabled covert influence operation aimed at sabotaging the 2016 election.

Russia has the most sophisticated and destructive arsenal of cyber weapons of any foreign nation. This potent set of cyber tools is superior in stealth, programming power, speed of attack and penetration of the adversary’s network. And Russia’s primary target in its offensive cyber operations for the past three decades has been the United States.

The FBI is in pursuit of Russian Yevgeniy Polyanin, charged with being part of the REvil ransomware gang.
Russian Yevgeniy Polyanin, 28, has been charged by the Justice Department for cybercrimes.

Now that he’s back home, Burkov will likely be “freelancing” for Russian spy agencies, continuing to wage cyberattacks on our country. Russia’s Ministry of Internal Affairs posted on its website a video of Burkov’s arrival to Sheremetyevo Airport in Moscow from the US. In the video, the Russian, dressed in a sweatshirt, sweatpants, and sporting black Nike sneakers, could barely hide a smirk behind a loosely-fitting protective face mask. “It is not by chance, Comrade (Eto ne sluchayno, Tovarisch),” as the Russians like to say, that Moscow showcased Burkov being detained by domestic security agents in a video available on YouTube. The Kremlin is manipulating the White House into believing the Russian government will “lock up” Burkov, who was also “wanted” in Russia for cybercrimes. Instead, Burkov will likely be “flipped” to serve the Russian state.

Bizarrely, the White House recently gave the Kremlin a whole list of Russian hackers who conducted devastating attacks on US business and government agencies, stupidly expecting the Russian government to arrest them. Instead, these criminals will be warned not to travel outside of Russia, especially to countries that have extradition agreements with the US, lest they get arrested.

In recent weeks, the US government has netted two other Russian cyber criminals and one Ukrainian hacker, all of whom crippled countless American businesses through ransomware attacks. Vladimir Dunayev, a 38-year-old Russian national, was extradited from South Korea to the US to face charges for deploying a computer banking malware, “Trickbot,” that infected millions of computers around the globe. Russian Yevgeniy Polyanin, 28, and Ukrainian Yaroslav Vasinskyi, 22, were charged by the Justice Department for using ransomware to attack US businesses and government agencies. It is crucial that these individuals are tried in the US and serve serious prison time if they are convicted. Deporting cyber criminals back to Russia, just like returning Burkov to Moscow, would only strengthen Putin’s cyberwar against the US.

Since Biden came into office, Russia has stepped up its cyber attacks on America. Instead of a striking back, the Democrat is appeasing Putin.
Since Biden came into office, Russia has stepped up its cyber attacks on America. Instead of striking back, the Democrat seems to be appeasing Putin.
POOL/AFP via Getty Images

On Biden’s watch, Russia has escalated its cyber warfare. Putin’s targeting of America’s vital infrastructure, such as food supply and gasoline reserves, has all but crossed the proverbial “red line.” Instead of jabbing Moscow with a counterpunch, our Commander in Chief continues to appease the Russian spymaster. It is high time for Biden to wise up on Putin, beef up America’s cyber defenses, and quit returning cybercriminals to Russia.

Rebekah Koffler is a former Defense Intelligence Agency officer and author of the new book “Putin’s Playbook: Russia’s Secret Plan to Defeat America” (Regnery), out now. @rebekah0132.

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