Donald Trump: Russia was likely behind DNC hack

President-elect Donald Trump believes Russia was likely behind the leaking of 19,000 emails from Democratic National Committee (DNC) servers during the US election run-up, he said today in a press conference.

But he added that other countries also target the US with cyber attacks, and said the DNC's security systems were not tight enough.

It came after an unauthored 35-page report, which included allegations that Russia tried to influence the outcome of the US election through cyber attacks, was published by BuzzFeed News.

Those claims have previously been made by the White House and US security officials, including the director of the office of national intelligence. Russia has consistently dismissed the allegations, saying there is no evidence for them.

CNN, which said it had also seen the document but did not publish it, claimed the report was presented in a two-page summary to President Barack Obama and Trump in a classified briefing. The report allegedly in part comprises memos written by a former British intelligence worker.

Trump indicated today, however, that he had been shown the information in its totality during a classified briefing, but went on to say: "It's a disgrace that information [in a classified intelligence briefing] would be leaked." He also intimated that the US intelligence agencies may themselves be responsible for the information being released to the public.

According to the document, a confidential informant codenamed Source E "acknowledged that the Russian regime had been behind the recent leak of e-mail messages, emanating from the [DNC] to the Wikileaks platform. The reason for using Wikileaks was 'plausible deniability'".

WikiLeaks has previously denied Russia was its source for the DNC emails it released, and Russia has rubbished the contents of the report, according to the Guardian.

The document further alleges that "Source E claimed that the intelligence network being used against CLINTON comprised three elements. Firstly there were agents/facilitators within the Democratic Party itself; secondly Russian migr and associated offensive cyber operators based in the US; and thirdly, state-sponsored cyber operatives working in Russia".

According to the document, Russia hacked the DNC and leaked the emails in order to swing the presidential election in favour of Trump as Russian president Vladimir Putin both hated and feared Democrat candidate Hillary Clinton. The Kremlin was particularly hopeful that the content of the emails would influence young people who had supported Bernie Sanders to turn to the Republican candidate.

Russia, the report claimed, later became concerned, however, that the fallout of the hack was "spiralling out of control" following negative media attention and accusations of election interference made against the Kremlin.

15/12/2016: Vladimir Putin accused of involvement in US election hack

Russian President Vladimir Putin has been accused of being personally involved in the Russian hack during US elections, in an attempt to get revenge for criticisms by Hillary Clinton, according to reports.

Two senior US intelligence officials have told the news broadcaster they believe with "a high level of confidence" that Putin was involved in the US election hack, which resulted in a leak of data from the Democratic National Committee and from Clinton's campaign chief John Podesta's email account.

The officials told NBC News that intelligence material gathered from diplomatic sources and spies working for US allies shows that Putin personally directed how the Democratic party's data was leaked and used.

A high-level intelligence source also told the news channel that Putin's intent was originally that of a 'vendetta' against Clinton, who had often criticised him.

However, the official told NBC the hack eventually became a way to reveal corruption in US politics, and "split off key American allies by creating the image that [other countries] could not depend on the US to be a credible global leader anymore".

According to the report, the CIA ultimately concluded that the Russian President supported Trump's election, although the FBI and other agencies do not fully agree with this.

Rex Tillerson, Trump's nominee for secretary of state, is said to have close links to Russia, having spent time there while working for ExxonMobil, oil and gas company, where he is currently CEO.

Last weekend, Trump publicly dismissed a US intelligence report concluding that Russia might have intervened in the latest US elections. The president-elect has also been antagonising intelligence agencies and questioning their competence, which has led to fears of retaliation once the new president is sworn in on 20 January.

12/12/2016: CIA warns of Trump reprisals following Russian hacking review

Leading legislators of US intelligence services have warned of possible reprisals from President-elect Donald Trump, following an internal assessment that concluded Russia had intervened during the 2016 presidential election.

Over the weekend, Trump publicly dismissed the report and questioned the competence of intelligence agencies such as the CIA, which has led to fears of retaliation once the new president is sworn on 20 January.

"When the President-elect's transition team is attempting to discredit the entire intelligence community (IC), it has never been more important for the IC and Congress to guard against possible political pressure or retaliation against intelligence analysts," said Senate intelligence committee member and Oregon Democrat, Ron Wyden, speaking to the Guardian.

Following calls for investigations over Russia's involvement in election disruption, including the hack on the Democratic National Convention, President Barack Obama ordered a new review on Friday to assess current evidence. Campaigners believe that Russia made a deliberate attempt to discredit the Democratic Party with the express goal of supporting Trump.

Trump's transition team has since rejected claims he was supported by Russian-backed hackers, adding that "these are the same people that said Saddam Hussein had weapons of mass destruction". Trump has publicly criticised the same intelligence agencies that he will come to rely on for national security during his tenure.

"If Trump is willing to disregard sound intelligence now, and demean the hard-working and patriotic Americans who produced it, I fear what he will do as president when confronted with unpleasant truths," said Adam Schiff, leading Democrat on the House intelligence committee, speaking to the Guardian.

Schiff believes Trump is simply reacting to the idea that Russian-backed hacking helped his campaign, and that his behaviour undermines the perception of his ability to handle high-level intelligence reports.

One former CIA officer believed Trump is likely to "destroy those individuals or organisations that say or do anything that he thinks harm his precious grandiosity," although civil service laws prevent a leadership 'purge'.

This is not simply a matter of Democrats against a new Republican President, as Republicans have been caught between Trump and Russia, long seen as an enemy of the US. Leading Republicans, including anti-Trump figures Lindsey Graham and John McCain, and Democrats Chuck Schumer and Jack Reed issued a joint statement on Friday calling for a cross-party investigation into alleged Russian involvement, which they claim is an issue of national security.

"Recent reports of Russian interference in our election should alarm every American," the statement reads. "Democrats and Republicans must work together, and across the jurisdictional lines of the Congress, to examine these recent incidents thoroughly and devise comprehensive solutions to deter and defend against further cyber attacks.

"We are committed to working in this bipartisan manner, and we will seek to unify our colleagues around the goal of stopping the grave threats that cyber attacks conducted by foreign governments pose to our national security."

Following news of Friday's review, Schiff said: "Given President-elect Trump's disturbing refusal to listen to our intelligence community and accept that the hacking was orchestrated by the Kremlin, there is an added urgency to the need for a thorough review before President Obama leaves office next month."

Jane McCallion
Managing Editor

Jane McCallion is ITPro's Managing Editor, specializing in data centers and enterprise IT infrastructure. Before becoming Managing Editor, she held the role of Deputy Editor and, prior to that, Features Editor, managing a pool of freelance and internal writers, while continuing to specialize in enterprise IT infrastructure, and business strategy.

Prior to joining ITPro, Jane was a freelance business journalist writing as both Jane McCallion and Jane Bordenave for titles such as European CEO, World Finance, and Business Excellence Magazine.