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VILNIUS (Reuters) - Politically-motivated cyber attacks from Russia pose the biggest threat to Lithuania's financial system, a survey of financial institutions conducted by the Baltic country's central bank showed on Tuesday.
The survey comes amid accusations of Russian hacking activity in other countries, including during the presidential elections in the United States and France. Russia denies the accusations.
Lithuania, once ruled by Moscow but now in NATO and the European Union, is on the political frontline of tensions between the West and Russia. Vilnius has regularly accused Moscow of trying to destabilize its institutions through cyber warfare.
"In contrast to the civilized world, where cyber threats are mostly criminal in nature and with a commercial intent, the cyber threats we are facing have a geopolitical aspect to them," Lithuanian Central Bank Governor Vitas Vasiliauskas, said, when asked to comment on dangers posed by Russian state-sponsored hacking to the country's banking system.
"In our region these threats are serious."
Russian President Vladimir Putin said last week that patriotic Russian hackers may have staged cyber attacks against countries that had strained relations with Moscow on their own initiative, but he denied that the Russian state had ever been involved in such hacking.
Earlier this year Lithuania said it had found Russian spyware on three of its government computers and had detected dozens of attempted break-ins. A spokesman for Putin called the claims "nonsense".
Lithuania's counter-intelligence chief Darius Jauniskis told Reuters that Russia had attempted to sow chaos in Lithuania by orchestrating a cyber attack in 2012 against the Lithuanian central bank and its top online news website, which brought both down.
Suspected Russia-backed hackers have also launched exploratory cyber attacks against the energy networks of the Baltic states of Lithuania, Latvia and Estonia, sources have told Reuters, raising security concerns in NATO.
Apart from cyber crime, the financial institutions polled by the central bank also rated a sharp increase in risk premiums in global financial markets and the threat of imbalances in the local real estate market as posing a threat to Lithuania's financial stability.
Reporting By Andrius Sytas; Editing by Lidia Kelly and Gareth Jones