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The US Government Formally Accuses Russia of Hacking Campaign to Influence Presidential Election

Rafia Shaikh
Posted Oct 7, 2016
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The United States government has formally accused Russia of the cyber attacks on the Democratic Party as an attempt to influence the country’s presidential election. The Department of Homeland Security and the Office of the Director of National Intelligence on Election Security released a joint statement on Friday, accusing Russia of carrying out a wide-ranging campaign to interfere with the 2016 election.

The US accuses Russia of hacks to interfere with elections

“The U.S. Intelligence Community (USIC) is confident that the Russian Government directed the recent compromises of e-mails from US persons and institutions, including from US political organizations,” a joint press release from the Director of National Intelligence and Department of Homeland Security says. “The recent disclosures of alleged hacked e-mails on sites like DCLeaks.com and WikiLeaks and by the Guccifer 2.0 online persona are consistent with the methods and motivations of Russian-directed efforts.” Earlier this week, WikiLeaks said it will release more documents relevant to the election in the coming weeks.

Previous reports had suggested that US intelligence agencies had found evidence that Russia was behind the hacking of computers of the Democratic National Committee and other political offices. The DNC had disclosed the intrusions in June, this year. This was followed by a formal warning from the FBI, which alerted campaign and state election offices to secure their networks and alert the bureau if any intrusions are suspected.

The investigations carried out by the Obama government suspected that Moscow hackers were behind the DNC attack. Later leaks of DNC emails, that forced the chairwoman Debbie Wasserman Schultz to resign from the committee, also led to Russian-sponsored hackers.

We believe, based on the scope and sensitivity of these efforts, that only Russia’s senior-most officials could have authorized these activities,” read the statement by the Director of National Intelligence James Clapper. The hacks and disclosures are “intended to interfere with the US election process. The Russians have used similar tactics and techniques across Europe and Eurasia [to influence public opinion],” the statement further said.

Full press release:

The U.S. Intelligence Community (USIC) is confident that the Russian Government directed the recent compromises of e-mails from US persons and institutions, including from US political organizations. The recent disclosures of alleged hacked e-mails on sites like DCLeaks.com and WikiLeaks and by the Guccifer 2.0 online persona are consistent with the methods and motivations of Russian-directed efforts. These thefts and disclosures are intended to interfere with the US election process. Such activity is not new to Moscow—the Russians have used similar tactics and techniques across Europe and Eurasia, for example, to influence public opinion there. We believe, based on the scope and sensitivity of these efforts, that only Russia’s senior-most officials could have authorized these activities.

Some states have also recently seen scanning and probing of their election-related systems, which in most cases originated from servers operated by a Russian company. However, we are not now in a position to attribute this activity to the Russian Government. The USIC and the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) assess that it would be extremely difficult for someone, including a nation-state actor, to alter actual ballot counts or election results by cyber attack or intrusion. This assessment is based on the decentralized nature of our election system in this country and the number of protections state and local election officials have in place. States ensure that voting machines are not connected to the Internet, and there are numerous checks and balances as well as extensive oversight at multiple levels built into our election process.

Nevertheless, DHS continues to urge state and local election officials to be vigilant and seek cybersecurity assistance from DHS. A number of states have already done so. DHS is providing several services to state and local election officials to assist in their cybersecurity. These services include cyber “hygiene” scans of Internet-facing systems, risk and vulnerability assessments, information sharing about cyber incidents, and best practices for securing voter registration databases and addressing potential cyber threats. DHS has convened an Election Infrastructure Cybersecurity Working Group with experts across all levels of government to raise awareness of cybersecurity risks potentially affecting election infrastructure and the elections process. Secretary Johnson and DHS officials are working directly with the National Association of Secretaries of State to offer assistance, share information, and provide additional resources to state and local officials.

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