US gives detailed look at Russia's alleged election hacking

The U.S. has released its most detailed report yet on accusations that Russia interfered in the U.S. presidential election by hacking American political sites and email accounts.

The 13-page joint analysis by the Department of Homeland Security and the FBI is the first such report ever to attribute malicious cyber activity to a particular country or actors.

It was also the first time the U.S. has officially and specifically tied intrusions into the Democratic National Committee to hackers with the Russian civilian and military intelligence services, the FSB and GRU, expanding on an Oct. 7 accusation by the Obama administration.

The report said the intelligence services were involved in "an ongoing campaign of cyber-enabled operations directed at the U.S. government and its citizens." It added, "In some cases, (the Russian intelligence services') actors masqueraded as third parties, hiding behind false online personas designed to cause the victim to misattribute the source of the attack."

Over the summer stolen emails from Democrats were posted by an online persona known as Guccifer 2.0, believed by U.S. officials to be linked to Russia. Outrage over documents that appeared to show favoritism for Hillary Clinton forced the DNC's chair, Debbie Wasserman Schultz, to resign.

The U.S. released the technical report Thursday as President Barack Obama sanctioned the GRU and the FSB, the GRU's leadership and companies which the U.S. said support the GRU.

The sanctions were the administration's first use of a 2015 executive order for combatting cyberattacks against critical infrastructure and commercial espionage. Because election systems aren't considered critical infrastructure, Obama amended the order Thursday to allow for sanctions on entities "interfering with or undermining election processes or institutions."

The retaliation against Russia, just weeks before President-elect Donald Trump takes office, culminated months of political handwringing about how and whether to respond to Moscow's alleged meddling. U.S. intelligence agencies concluded that Russia's goal was to help Trump win—an assessment Trump has dismissed as ridiculous. Trump said Thursday the U.S. should move on, but that he would meet with the intelligence community's leaders next week for an update on the situation.

The report did not go far beyond confirming details already disclosed by cybersecurity firm CrowdStrike, which was hired to investigate the DNC hacks.

It described the intelligence services' use of "spearphishing"—fake emails intended to trick victims into typing in their user names and passwords. At least one person opened attachments with malicious software. The report noted that actors "likely associated" with Russian intelligence services are continuing to engage in spearphishing campaigns, including one launched just days after the U.S. election.

The DNC was infiltrated by the FSB in summer 2015 and again by the GRU in spring 2016 using spearphishing emails that often appeared to come from legitimate or official organizations, the report said.

Russian officials have denied any involvement in hacking U.S. political sites and emails.

The report provided clues, or pieces of code left behind by hackers, cybersecurity workers in the private sector could look for to identify compromised systems and prevent more intrusions. The Department of Homeland Security said it has already included this information within its own cyber threat information-sharing program, which automatically flags threats in real time for participating companies and agencies.

Releasing such a report was a political twist on the administration's strategy of "name and shame," in place since 2012 and used to bring indictments against Chinese military hackers for economic espionage and Iranian hackers for an attack on banks and a small dam in New York. It was also a far more detailed and sophisticated telling of Russia's hacking, with technical indicators of compromise, compared to the spare technical details released after the Obama administration publicly blamed North Korea for a cyberattack against Sony Pictures Entertainment.

U.S. officials also provided antivirus vendors with two malicious software samples used by Russian intelligence services.


Explore further

Obama orders 'full review' of 2016 election cyberattacks

© 2016 The Associated Press. All rights reserved.

Citation: US gives detailed look at Russia's alleged election hacking (2016, December 30) retrieved 15 October 2019 from https://phys.org/news/2016-12-russia-alleged-election-hacking.html
This document is subject to copyright. Apart from any fair dealing for the purpose of private study or research, no part may be reproduced without the written permission. The content is provided for information purposes only.
12 shares

Feedback to editors

User comments

Jan 03, 2017
Putin found his "unwitting tools", as our own CIA put it.

The emotionally-vulnerable Baggers bought into it, and now they are unwitting tools of the Russian FSB, too.

Reagan's Dumbing-Down of America is paying dividends among the "poorly-educated" Friends of Trump.

Jan 03, 2017
Because election systems aren't considered critical infrastructure

Ouch. If elections aren't critical then what is? Or is the sham now so obvious that no one even cares anyomre if it's public knowledge?

Jan 07, 2017
Or is the sham now so obvious that no one even cares anyomre if it's public knowledge?


It's obvious. As Chris Hedges put it, "There is no way in the American political system to vote against the interest of Goldman Sachs. It's impossible. Or Exxon Mobil."

Jan 07, 2017
Mind you, if a certain person didn't have an unsecured private email server in her basement with all kinds of info on it (classified and unclassified) then the hack most likely wouldn't have occurred and we, the public, would still have next to no insight into the machinations of the American democrat party.

But now we know.
And apparently it's all the Russians fault.

Jan 07, 2017
Thanks to our Russian friends for giving us insight into the real nature of the Clintons and the DNC.

Does anyone doubt that this would be the spin if hacking had exposed similar Republican corruption?

It wasn't the HACKING, it was the garbage it uncovered that cost Dems all those elections. And try as they might they can't unspin THAT. And they only lose more and more as they keep trying.

I laugh when I recall how liberals used to champion Assange and WikiLeaks. But then only they are allowed to question election results without being accused of treason yes?

Liberal fantasists have lied themselves into the toilet.

Jan 07, 2017
Reagan's Dumbing-Down of America is paying dividends among the "poorly-educated" Friends of Trump
uh but you're poorly educated and intellectually handicapped as well. You really think you're helping your cause?

What Deep Thinkers are you appealing to with all those t shirt catchphrases? Other professional liars hmmm?

Jan 07, 2017
The Russian hack claims is pretty much the same BS as the WMD's in Iraq, why is it not surprising the morons fall for it.

Jan 09, 2017
Hi cantdrive. :)

Mate, you need to keep objective and not naive about political intrigue and espionage.

For example, what is the probability that Edward Snowden's stuff brought to Putin's intelligence agencies is being exploited to map and hack US and allied computer systems and programs/storage? Are you denying there is a HIGH probability Putin's people have been quietly digging away and infiltrating all sorts of US computer/digital devices/sources etc? If so, you are beig naive and/or blindly partisan because you follow one political party/agenda? Highly probable.

Add Snowden's Russian collaboration with Assanges/Mannings leaks about US diplomatic and other sources/secrets/systems, and you can see how any intelligence agency worth its salt can exploit it all to 'connect the dots' and gain hacking/direct access to US private and government systems DATA AND AGENTS....and secretly manipulate/turn BOTH to their own political/mercenary ends. Be more objective, everyone. :)

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more