Did Russian spys put 'poisoned' USB sticks in G20 goodie bags?
Claims Kremlin tried to steal secrets by giving summit delegates devices adapted to capture data
RUSSIA'S spies may have been feeling a little overlooked of late thanks to the attention being given to their counterparts at the National Security Agency (NSA). But fresh claims that Moscow tried to spy on delegates at the G20 conference by giving them USB drives and recharging devices capable of downloading sensitive information from laptops, should change all that.
The devices were given to foreign delegates, including heads of state, in goodie bags handed out at the summit held near St Petersburg earlier this year, according to reports in two Italian papers, La Stampa and Corriere della Sera. Downing Street says David Cameron did not receive one of the devices, the Daily Telegraph reports, but didn't rule out the possibility that members of the British delegation had.
According to Corriere della Sera, suspicions were first raised about the devices by Herman Van Rompuy, president of the European Council. The Belgian ordered technicians to check out the devices and initial inspections found "the USB sticks and the recharge cables are suitable for undercover detection of computer data and mobile phones".
The finding encouraged La Stampa to describe the suspect gadgets as "Trojan Horse" devices and a "poisoned gift" from Russian president Putin.
A Kremlin spokesman denied the allegations and accused Western governments of trying to divert attention away from the surveillance scandals triggered by documents leaked by Edward Snowden. "It is definitely nothing other than an attempt to switch attention from the problems that really exist, which dominate the agenda between the European capitals and Washington, to problems that are ephemeral and nonexistent," he said.
While tests are still being carried out on the devices, an un-named diplomat told the Telegraph that any G20 delegate who put a free USB stick provided by his Russian hosts into a computer would be committing a "schoolboy error". He said any security-trained diplomat would be alert to such unvetted "freebies". ·