Russians hand G20 delegates tainted thumb drives as freebies

Government (Foreign) // St. Petersburg, Russia

At last month’s summit, heads of state and staff received USB sticks capable of downloading sensitive data from laptops.

Delegations also received smartphone rechargers reportedly able to secretly tap into emails, text messages and telephone calls.

It is believed Russia used the complimentary “Trojan horse” jump drives to spy on foreign powers at the summit near St. Petersburg.

The allegations come “at a time of high tension between the US and Russia, in particular over Syria and the Russian granting of asylum to former NSA systems analyst Edward Snowden,” the Telegraph reports.

The devices were “a poisoned gift” from Russian President Vladimir Putin, claimed La Stampa, a Turin-based daily.

But Brussels sources dismissed the allegations and expressed total confidence in the security of devices used by EU delegates. A diplomat said it would be a “schoolboy error” to use a free memory stick at the summit because of obvious security concerns.

Putin spokesman Dmitry Peskov denied the accusations, describing them as a poorly disguised effort to divert attention from allegations that U.S. intelligence services spied on German Chancellor Angela Merkel and other American allies.

"These are really funny reports, actually. First of all they have no sources. It is a bold attempt to switch attention from very real problems existing between European capitals and Washington," he told the Telegraph.

U.K. Prime Minister David Cameron was not given one of the jump drives but it is possible that other British employees received them.

Asked if staff were given the USBs, Cameron’s spokesman told the publication: "I believe they were part of the gifts for delegates."

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