The Department of Homeland Security said Friday it is “confident” Russia is responsible for recent hacks against the U.S. election system.
“We believe, based on the scope and sensitivity of these efforts, that only Russia’s senior-most officials could have authorized these activities,” said a joint statement from the Department of Homeland Security and the Office of the Director of National Intelligence. “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.”
The statement said that some U.S. states have seen “scanning and probing” of election-related systems that can be traced back to servers in Russia, but can’t verify it was perpetrated by the government.
Russia was widely believed to have been behind hacks on the Democratic National Committee and other political officials disclosed earlier this year, but this is the first public acknowledgment by the Obama administration that the Kremlin was behind the cyberattacks. Analysts have speculated that Russian President Vladimir Putin, who has found an admirer in Donald Trump, is attempting to interfere with the U.S. election system in hopes of tipping the ballots in favor of the Republican.
The U.S.-Russia relationship has been particularly fraught over the last week as Washington officially suspended talks with Moscow aimed at ending Syria’s civil war. Russia responded by suspending a treaty with the Americans that addressed cleaning up weapons-grade plutonium and agreements on nuclear, energy and uranium.