The cyberattacks and email leaks endured by Democrats during the run-up to last week’s presidential vote was undoubtedly the work of a foreign government, the head of the National Security Agency and Army Cyber Command said Tuesday, reiterating the Obama administration’s charge that state-sponsored hackers attempted to disrupt the election process.
Navy Adm. Mike Rogers, the director of both the NSA and CYBERCOM, was discussing the Democratic National Committee breach at an event Tuesday hosted by The Wall Street Journal when he said state actors certainly waged the the attack that resulted in the publication of internal DNC emails by WikiLeaks.
“There shouldn’t be any doubt in anybody’s minds,” he told attendees. “This was not something that was done casually. This was not something that was done by chance. This was not a target that was selected purely arbitrarily. This was a conscious effort by a nation-state to attempt to achieve a specific effect.”
The NSA chief didn’t attribute any nation in particular with waging attacks against the DNC and others during Tuesday’s event, but the Obama administration said previously that the Russian government’s top officials “directed the recent compromises of emails from U.S. persons and institutions, including from U.S. political organizations,” and that the publication afterwards of stolen emails was “consistent with the methods and motivations of Russian-directed efforts.”
“These thefts and disclosures are intended to interfere with the U.S. election process,” the U.S. intelligence community concluded last month.
Russian President Vladimir Putin has denied allegations concerning his country’s purported role in the cyberattacks, and WikiLeaks publisher Julian Assange recently stated explicitly that the Russian government wasn’t the source of DNC emails published by his antisecrecy website.
“Does anyone seriously think Russia can somehow influence the choice of the U.S. people? Is the U.S. some kind of banana republic?” Mr. Putin asked last month.
But according to security researchers and U.S. intelligence officials, evidence exists linking a Russian government group with hacking campaigns waged against the DNC and various individuals and organizations associated with the Democratic Party and its presidential candidate, Hillary Clinton.
Speaking at Tuesday’s event, the NSA chief said his agency is doing what it can to make systems less prone to state-sponsored cyberattacks.
“We’re trying to make life harder for hackers. Quite frankly, we’re trying to harden systems. We’re trying to increase knowledge, we’re trying to increase capabilities in the private sector and the government, we’re trying to engage with a host of nation-states around the world who are engaging with them in terms of what is acceptable and what is not,” he said.
On Capitol Hill, meanwhile, Republican Sen. Lindsey Graham of South Carolina on Tuesday called on Congress to investigate claims concerning Russia’s alleged interference in the general election.
“Assuming for a moment that we do believe that the Russian government was controlling outside organizations that hacked into our election, they should be punished,” Mr. Graham told reporters. “Putin should be punished.”