US gov’t officially accuses Russia of political hacks; Moscow calls it ‘nonsense’
“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,” says a joint official statement from the Department of Homeland Security and the Office of National Intelligence that was issued Friday.
“We believe, based on the scope and sensitivity of these efforts, that only Russia's senior-most officials could have authorized these activities,” says the statement, posted by the Director of National Intelligence James Clapper.
The thefts and disclosures are “intended to interfere with the US election process,” the statement said, adding that “the Russians have used similar tactics and techniques across Europe and Eurasia” to influence public opinion.
External attempts to access election systems in several states“in most cases originated from servers operated by a Russian company,” the US officials said. “However, we are not now in a position to attribute this activity to the Russian Government.”
It would be “extremely difficult” for anyone to alter ballot counts or election results through cyberattacks, DHS and DNI said.
DHS has established an Election Infrastructure Cybersecurity Working Group “with experts across all levels of government” to raise awareness of cybersecurity risks, and urges state and local election officials to seek cybersecurity assistance from the federal authorities.
This is the first time the US government has officially accused Russia of cyberattacks related to the US presidential campaign. The Democratic National Committee blamed Russia for the hack of their email servers in June, though a lone hacker going by the name ‘Guccifer 2.0’ claimed responsibility and denied any ties to Russia.
The statement from Homeland Security and DNI comes just hours after Secretary of State John Kerry said that Russian actions in Syria “beg for an appropriate investigation of war crimes.” Moscow has dismissed Kerry’s words as “propaganda” intended to distract from US failure to implement the Syrian ceasefire agreement.
US cybersecurity experts claim that six out of eight IP addresses used by the DNC hackers were hosted on King Servers, a Russian provider. Vladimir Fomenko, owner of the company, told RT that he was never contacted by US law enforcement, however.
“We are ready to assist in probing this crime and consulting the FBI or other services on such issues. Hackers are a common threat and we must fight it together,” Fomenko said.
“If the FBI asks, we are ready to supply the IP addresses, the logs,” he said. “Nobody is asking… It’s like nobody wants to sort this out.”
A Republican lawmaker, Senator Cory Gardner, said he would propose legislation to investigate Russian cyber criminals and sanction them if deemed appropriate. “Russia’s interference with American democracy is a direct threat to our political process,” Gardner said in a statement on Friday.
‘Hackers from US attack us daily, but we don’t accuse the White House’ – Peskov
Presidential press secretary Dmitry Peskov has deemed the US accusations “yet another fit of nonsense,” stating that despite constant attempts to hack the cites of Russian officials, Moscow has never pointed a finger at Washington.
“This is yet another fit of nonsense! Tens of thousands of hackers [try to break into] President Putin's website daily. Many of these attacks can be traced to the United States. Yet we do not blame the White House or Langley every time,” Peskov said, referring to the location of US National Security headquarters, Russia 24 TV Channel reported.
Russian officials have repeatedly denied involvement in the hacks, calling them “so absurd it borders on total stupidity.”
Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Sergey Ryabkov called the accusations a political campaign “to whip up anti-Russian hysteria,” TASS news agency reported on Saturday.
He added that Moscow has repeatedly proposed holding consultations on cyberspace security with Washington, noting that the offer is still on the table. Ryabkov said that US security officials should pay more attention to Western European politicians meddling in the US election campaign, rather than accuse Russia of interfering.
Russian President Vladimir Putin has also written off the allegations as false, while suggesting that blaming Russia is an election trick intended to steer the US public away from the facts exposed by the leaked material.
“Does it even matter who hacked this data? The important thing here is what the public was shown. That is what the discussion should focus on. One shouldn’t draw the public’s attention from the core of the issue by replacing it with secondary details like who did it,” Putin said in an interview with Bloomberg news outlet last month.
“Anyway, we certainly don’t do such things [as hacking] on a state level,” he added.