After months of suspicion, the US government has formally accused Russia of hacking the networks of the Democratic party, and leaking over 19,000 emails, in July. The accusation came just hours after Secretary of State John Kerry called for war crimes investigations into Russia and Syria’s bombing of civilian targets. The office of the director of national intelligence and the Department of Homeland Security released a joint statement, saying “We believe, based on the scope and sensitivity of these efforts, that only Russia’s senior-most officials could have authorized these activities.” While it was fairly clear that the hacks originated in Russia, this is the first official statement to put responsibility on the Russian government.
A spokesman for Vladimir Putin shrugged off the accusation as “rubbish,” going on to say “Every day Putin’s website gets attacked by several tens of thousands of hackers. A lot of these attacks are traced to the territory of the USA, but we do not blame the White House or Langley each time.”
The two US agencies also said that a number of US states had detected attempts to breach their election systems, with most attempts coming from servers operated by a Russian company. However, the statement stopped short of accusing the Russian government of involvement in these attempts. The statement did, however, recommend that states seek cybersecurity assistance from the Department of Homeland Security.
In the past four months, websites such as WikiLeaks and other media sites have distributed data which was leaked from the Democratic National Committee, the World Anti-Doping Agency, and the ruling party of Turkey. Security officials have suggested that these hacks may be linked to a single operation, associated with hacking groups such as Fancy Bear, which is thought to be operating under Russia’s largest intelligence service.
Another group, assigned the codename Cozy Bear, is believed to have hacked DNC servers as well, but seems to have yet to release any data collected. Cozy Bear has been linked to the FSB, a direct descendent of the Soviet era KGB.
The emails leaked from DNC servers revealed a bias against Hilary Clinton’s populist primary rival, Bernie Sanders, within the organization.
Lawmakers such as Adam Schiff, the senior Democrat on the US House intelligence committee, had urged the Obama administration to hold the Kremlin responsible for the digital attacks.
Schiff issued the following statement:
“I applaud the administration’s decision to publicly name Russia as the source of hacks into US political institutions. We should now work with our European allies who have been the victim of similar and even more malicious cyber interference by Russia to develop a concerted response that protects our institutions and deters further meddling.”