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Intel Community Says it has High Confidence Suspected State Russian Hackers Behind Breaches of Political Systems

Office of the Director of National Intelligence (ODNI) Director James Clapper jointly announced with the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) Intelligence Community(IC) analysts and investigators are very confident the Russian government directed the recent compromises of emails from US persons and institutions, including US political organizations like the Democratic National Committee, and, perhaps, Democratic Presidential candidate Hillary Clinton’s admittedly unsecured and grossly mismanaged private home server on which she kept a variety of highly classified materials.

“The recent disclosures of alleged hacked emails 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 ODNI and DHS said, adding that, “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.”

Continuing the announcement stated, “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 IC and 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,” the joint announcement said, pointing out that, “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.”

DHS Secretary Jay Johnson and other 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.

In response to the announcement by the ODNI and DHS regarding Russian government hacking against US persons and institutions, House Committee on Homeland Security Chairman Michael McCaul (R-TX), said, “This is a direct provocation against our people and our democracy. The Russian government has now targeted members of both political parties and appears intent on undermining confidence in our electoral process. We cannot allow such actions to go unanswered.”

McCaul stated, “President Obama must send a clear signal to Moscow: attempts to influence US elections or interfere with our democratic system will be met with severe consequences. Only then can we deter this kind of cyber aggression. As chairman, I will continue to work closely with [DHS]Secretary Johnson and Department of Homeland Security to ensure our government is equipped to provide state and local officials, if requested on a voluntary basis, with the tools they need to keep our critical networks secure. Vladimir Putin’s regime has crossed a line, and he should know that the United States will not allow our political process or our future to be dictated by foreign adversaries.”
 
 

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The Government Technology & Services Coalition's Homeland Security Today (HSToday) is the premier news and information resource for the homeland security community, dedicated to elevating the discussions and insights that can support a safe and secure nation. A non-profit magazine and media platform, HSToday provides readers with the whole story, placing facts and comments in context to inform debate and drive realistic solutions to some of the nation’s most vexing security challenges.

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