Update: the machinery begins to move:
- CHAIRMAN OF U.S. SENATE CYBER SECURITY SUBCOMMITTEE TO INTRODUCE BILL IMPOSING SANCTIONS ON RUSSIA AFTER U.S. POLITICAL HACKING ACCUSATIONS
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After months of speculation whether the US would officially accuse Russia of being responsible for various intrusions and hacks, primarily involving the Democratic party, moments ago we finally got the long-anticipated confirmation when the US named Russia as the actor behind the hacking attempts on political organizations and, more importantly, state election systems and accused Putin of carrying out a wide-ranging campaign to interfere with the 2016 elections, including by hacking the computers of the Democratic National Committee and other political officials.
In a statement, the US "intelligence community" said that it is “confident” that the Russian government “directed the recent compromises of emails from US persons and institutions, including from US political organizations”, the Department of Homeland Security and Director of National Intelligence on Election Security said in a joint statement.
The US added that “these thefts and disclosures are intended to interfere with the US election process”.
"We believe, based on the scope and sensitivity of these efforts, that only Russia's senior-most officials could have authorized these activities," a U.S. government statement said on Friday about hacking of political groups. Alternatively, the activities could have been authorized by some "senior-most" US official, with the intention of creating the first false flag cyberwar.
The statement by the Department of Homeland Security and the Office of the Director of National Intelligence did not blame the Russian government for hacking attempts against state election systems, but said "scanning and probing" of those systems originated in most cases from servers operated by a Russian company.
"These thefts and disclosures are intended to interfere with the U.S. election process," the statement said. "However, we are not now in a position to attribute this activity to the Russian Government," the statement said.
The accusation, made by the Office of the Director of National Intelligence and the Department of Homeland Security, came as pressure was growing from within the administration and some lawmakers to hold Moscow accountable for a set of actions apparently aimed at sowing discord around the election. Sure enough, the formal attribution to Russia, something that has long been discussed in information security circles, represents a step-up in rhetoric by the Obama administration.
The administration also blamed Moscow for the hack of the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee and the subsequent leak of private email addresses and cell phone numbers of Democratic lawmakers. A series of other leaks of hacked material followed, all of which are suspected of being conducted by Russia-sponsored hackers.
Russia has denied any connection to the hacks. As the official statement by the DHS and ODNI notes, the actual party doing the accusation of Russia is the US intelligence community, which as recently as a month ago was breached itself when a domestic "Snowden 2.0", Harold T. Martin, was arrested recently after obtaining and attempting to sell an unknown number of internal NSA programs.
Here is the full statement:
While we are confident that Putin is laughing at this statement and/or threat, a question emerges: since the US has said it would treat cyberattacks by "foreign state powers" as the equivalent of an act of war, will the US now escalate and use this "naming of Russia" as a global master hacker (we assume the recent NSA hack will not be blamed on the Kremlin too, now that an American was arrested), as a pretext to accelerate diplomatic and/or military actions against Russia.