Russian government behind the hacks of US election: What we know

The Department of Homeland Security and the Director of National Intelligence say the Russian government is behind the hacks of US political organizations.


Washington (AFP) – US authorities warned the Democratic and Republican presidential campaigns early in 2016 that they were targets of hackers, after having seen similar efforts in the 2008 election.

But it was only in June that evidence pointed to the Russian government.

Following are some of the key developments:

– May 18: US Director of National Intelligence James Clapper warns of cyberattacks against the campaigns, without specific reference to any source. “As the campaigns intensify we’ll probably have more of it,” he says.

– June 15: CrowdStrike, a cybersecurity firm hired by the Democratic National Committee to investigate break-ins in its computer systems, points to two separate Russian intruders.

“Both adversaries engage in extensive political and economic espionage for the benefit of the government of the Russian Federation and are believed to be closely linked to the Russian government’s powerful and highly capable intelligence services,” it says.

– July 22: WikiLeaks publishes the first batch of hacked DNC internal correspondence, which eventually amounts to about 44,000 emails and 18,000 attachments. WikiLeaks refuses to divulge its source.

– October 7: the Department of Homeland Security and the Director of National Intelligence say the Russian government is behind the hacks of US political organizations.

“These thefts and disclosures are intended to interfere with the US election process,” they say.

– October 7: WikiLeaks begins publishing emails stolen from the Gmail account of John Podesta, chairman of Hillary Clinton’s campaign.

It releases Podesta emails on a nearly daily basis until just before the election. SecureWorks, another cybersecurity consultant, says Podesta’s emails were hacked by the same people as the DNC hack.

– November 29: Seven Democrats of the powerful Senate Intelligence Committee call on the White House to declassify what it knows about Russian interference in the election.

– December 9-10: The Washington Post and New York Times report that the CIA concluded Moscow intended to help Trump’s election effort with the release of the hacked emails.

The Post reports that the FBI was not as certain about the motivation; the Times says Russians also hacked Republican National Committee computers. Trump calls the CIA conclusion, “ridiculous.”

“They have no idea if it’s Russia or China or somebody. It could be somebody sitting in a bed some place,” he said.


Earlier in 2015 Russian-hired hackers breached an unclassified White House system and pilfered information about President Obama’s daily schedule and communications, CNN reports.

The hackers gained “access to sensitive information such as real-time non-public details of the president’s schedule.”

A phishing-style attack allowed Russian hackers to access a State Department computer network, which in turn allowed access to the White House’s system.

The hackers were working for the Russian government but did not succeed in accessing any classified networks, according to CNN.

Even so, nonclassified networks can contain sensitive information that the White House might not want in the hands of a rival government.

And it is a sign that even high-level US government systems are far from impervious to outside attacks.