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Russia Says There's "No Proof" It's Been Messing With The Election Through Hacking

For the first time, the Obama administration directly accused Russia of trying to sabotage the presidential election.

Last updated on October 7, 2016, at 4:53 p.m. ET

Posted on October 7, 2016, at 4:06 p.m. ET

Saul Loeb / AFP / Getty Images

The Obama administration said it is "confident" Vladimir Putin's government is behind the recent series of mostly email hacks on political entities, and that the Russians' intent was to "interfere with the US election process."

"The recent disclosures of alleged hacked emails on sites like DCLeaks.com and WikiLeaks and by the Guccifer 2.0 online persona are consistent with the methods and motivations of Russian-directed efforts," said a joint statement from the Department of Homeland Security and the Office of the Director of National Intelligence on Election Security.

The statement said that such activity "is not new to Moscow," adding that Russians have used similar tactics in the past.

"We believe, based on the scope and sensitivity of these efforts, that only Russia's senior-most officials could have authorized these activities," the joint statement reads.

Pool New / Reuters

Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Sergei Ryabkov

In a statement on Saturday, the Russian foreign ministry denied the allegations, instead accusing the White House of trying to fan "unprecedented anti-Russian hysteria."

"This whipping up of emotions regarding 'Russian hackers' is used in the US election campaign, and the current US administration, taking part in this fight, is not averse to using dirty tricks," Deputy Foreign Minister Sergei Ryabkov said.

"There is no proof whatsoever for such grave accusations," Ryabkov said.

"[They are]...fabricated by those who are now serving an obvious political order in Washington, continuing to whip up unprecedented anti-Russian hysteria," he said.

Just a few weeks ago, BuzzFeed News exclusively reported that the White House was demanding Congress remain quiet on Russian hacks.

Here's BuzzFeed News cybersecurity reporter Sheera Frenkel on the announcement:

Nobody is surprised that Russia named as being behind DNC hack. What is big here is that by officially naming them, US could take action.

"As the [intelligence community] gathered new information, it was able
to reach higher degrees of confidence about which actors are responsible and
then determine what could be disclosed publicly," a senior administration official told BuzzFeed News in a statement.

The official said the intelligence community worked with the FBI to evaluate information gathered through intelligence sources, FBI investigations, and other sources.

Congressman Adam Schiff, a member of the intelligence committee, applauded the administration's decision to publicly name Russia.

"We should now work with our European allies who have been the victim of similar and even more malicious cyber interference by Russia to develop a concerted response that protects our institutions and deters further meddling," he said in a statement. "All of us should be gravely concerned when a foreign power like Russia seeks to undermine our democratic institutions, and we must do everything in our power to guard against it."

One hack on the Democratic National Committee's servers ahead of the party's July convention revealed 20,000 emails β€” some of which criticized Bernie Sanders' presidential campaign. Republicans, including Donald Trump, said the leak revealed corruption within the Democratic Party, including its nomination process.

DNC Chairwoman Debbie Wasserman Schultz stepped down after the revelations.

Last month, the website DCLeaks.com obtained former Secretary of State Colin Powell's emails, which blasted Donald Trump for embarking on a "racist" movement. His emails also called the Republican candidate a "national disgrace."

In the most recent case, the hacker who goes by Guccifer 2.0 released documents he said came from the servers of the Clinton Foundation.

Here's the full joint statement:

The U.S. Intelligence Community (USIC) is confident that the Russian Government directed the recent compromises of e-mails from US persons and institutions, including from US political organizations. The recent disclosures of alleged hacked e-mails on sites like DCLeaks.com and WikiLeaks and by the Guccifer 2.0 online persona are consistent with the methods and motivations of Russian-directed efforts. These thefts and disclosures are intended to interfere with the US election process. Such activity is not new to Moscowβ€”the Russians have used similar tactics and techniques across Europe and Eurasia, for example, to influence public opinion there. We believe, based on the scope and sensitivity of these efforts, that only Russia's senior-most officials could have authorized these activities.

Some states have also recently seen scanning and probing of their election-related systems, which in most cases originated from servers operated by a Russian company. However, we are not now in a position to attribute this activity to the Russian Government. The USIC and the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) assess that it would be extremely difficult for someone, including a nation-state actor, to alter actual ballot counts or election results by cyber attack or intrusion. This assessment is based on the decentralized nature of our election system in this country and the number of protections state and local election officials have in place. States ensure that voting machines are not connected to the Internet, and there are numerous checks and balances as well as extensive oversight at multiple levels built into our election process.

Nevertheless, DHS continues to urge state and local election officials to be vigilant and seek cybersecurity assistance from DHS. A number of states have already done so. DHS is providing several services to state and local election officials to assist in their cybersecurity. These services include cyber β€œhygiene” scans of Internet-facing systems, risk and vulnerability assessments, information sharing about cyber incidents, and best practices for securing voter registration databases and addressing potential cyber threats. DHS has convened an Election Infrastructure Cybersecurity Working Group with experts across all levels of government to raise awareness of cybersecurity risks potentially affecting election infrastructure and the elections process. Secretary Johnson and DHS officials are working directly with the National Association of Secretaries of State to offer assistance, share information, and provide additional resources to state and local officials.

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