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Intelligence Community 'Confident' That Russia 'Directed' Campaign Hacks

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WASHINGTON — The Office of the Director of National Intelligence and Department of Homeland Security declared in a joint statement today that the Intelligence Community is “confident that the Russian government directed the recent compromises of e-mails from U.S. persons and institutions, including from U.S. 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,” the statement said. “These thefts and disclosures are intended to interfere with the U.S. 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.”

In regard to voting security, the statement noted that “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,” they added. “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.”

Still, state and local election officials have been urged 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.”

Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.), the top Democrat on the Senate Intelligence Committee, said the administration’s “acknowledgement that Russian intelligence agencies are attempting to influence the U.S. election and undermine public confidence conveys the seriousness of the threat.”

“Attempted hacking of our election system is intolerable, and it’s critical to convince the Russian government to cease these activities,” Feinstein added in a statement. “If it does not, we must develop a strong response.”

Sen. Cory Gardner (R-Colo.), chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Subcommittee on East Asia, the Pacific, and International Cybersecurity, said he plans on introducing legislation after the Senate returns from the campaign recess to mandate administration investigation of the specific people behind the hacks and apply sanctions as indicated.

“Today’s news is further evidence of what happens when the Obama administration fails to take the cyber threat seriously,” Gardner said. “…Russia’s interference with American democracy is a direct threat to our political process, and it may only be the tip of the iceberg.”

“It is imperative that Russia’s behavior is met with strength in the form of aggressive sanctions to show the world that its cybercrimes will not be tolerated.”