July 26, 2016—July 28, 2016: Russia denies any role in hacking the DNC’s emails and claims to be neutral in the US presidential election.

160726SergeyLavrovpublic

Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov (Credit: public domain)

On July 26, 2016, Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov strongly dismisses suggestions that the Russian government could have been behind the hacks that led to the public release of 20,000 Democratic National Committee (DNC) emails.  He says, “I don’t want to use four-letter words.”  (The New York Times, 7/26/2016)

Two days later, Russian government spokesperson Dmitry Peskov says accusations of Russian involvement in the hacking of the emails border on “total stupidity” and are motivated by anti-Russian sentiment. “As regards these [email] batches, that is not our headache. We never poke our noses into others’ affairs and we really don’t like it when people try to poke their nose into ours. … The Americans need to get to the bottom of what these emails are themselves and find out what it’s all about.”

Peskov also says Russia won’t change what he claims has been a neutral stance on the US 2016 presidential election. “We know perfectly well that candidates in the heat of a preelection struggle say one thing, but that later, when under the weight of responsibility, their rhetoric becomes more balanced.”

Some US analysts claim that the Russian media, which is heavily influenced by the Russian government, has shown a clear tilt in favor of Trump. (Reuters, 7/28/2016)

July 26, 2016: WikiLeaks head Julian Assange says WikiLeaks might release “a lot more material” relevant to the US presidential campaign.

160727AssangeMatthewChanceCNN

CNN’s Matthew Chance interviews Julian Assange over a video link on July 26, 2016. (Credit: CNN, Moscow)

Assange is vague on details about future releases. He is asked by CNN about reports that the Russian government might be behind the recent hack of the Democratic National Committee (DNC) computer network. WikiLeaks has a policy of never revealing its sources, and Assange maintains that policy by refusing to confirm or deny anything. He says, “Perhaps one day the source or sources will step forward and that might be an interesting moment. Some people may have egg on their faces. But to exclude certain actors is to make it easier to find out who our sources are.”

He additionally says that Clinton and other Democratic officials are using the specter of Russian involvement to distract from the content of the emails. “It raises questions about the natural instincts of Clinton that when confronted with a serious domestic political scandal, she tries to blame the Russians, blame the Chinese, et cetera. Because if she does that while in government, it could lead to problems.” (CNN, 7/27/2016)

July 26, 2016: US intelligence agencies have “high confidence” that the Russian government is behind the hack of DNC emails.

160726RussianFederalSecurityService

Emblem of the Russian Federal Security Service (Credit: public domain)

The New York Times claims this is according to unnamed “federal officials who have been briefed on the evidence.” But these officials are uncertain if the hack is part of “fairly routine cyberespionage” or part of an effort to manipulate the 2016 US presidential election. The DNC (Democratic National Committee) emails were  published by WikiLeaks on July 22, 2016, causing political turmoil for Democrats and resulting in the resignation of Debbie Wasserman Schultz, from her position as DNC chair.

The federal investigation, involving the FBI and other intelligence agencies began in April 2016, when the hack was first detected. It has concluded that the Russian Federal Security Service (Federal’naya Sluzhba Bezopasnosti or FSB) entered the DNC’s computer network in the summer of 2015. (This corresponds with previous reports of a hacking by a Russian group known as Cozy Bear or APT 29.) The Rusian Main Intelligence Directorate (Glavnoje Razvedyvatel’noje Upravlenije or GRU) independently penetrated the same network later. (This corresponds with previous reports of a hacking by a Russian group known as Fancy Bear or APT 28.) Investigators believe the GRU has been playing a larger role in publicly releasing the emails.

The Times says the intelligence community’s conclusion puts pressure on President Obama to publicly accuse Russia of orchestrating the hacking, which could negatively impact the diplomatic relationship between the US and Russia in general. (The New York Times, 7/26/2016)

July 26, 2016: President Obama suggests Russians could be behind the hack that led to the WikiLeaks release of DNC emails.

President Obama is asked if Russia could be behind hacks that led to 20,000 Democratic National Committee (DNC) emails getting released by WikiLeaks. He says the FBI is still investigating but also “experts have attributed this to the Russians.”

160726ObamaGuthrieNBCNews

Obama (left) is interviewed by Today’s Savannah Guthrie on July 26, 2016. (Credit: NBC)

He adds, “What we do know is is that the Russians hack our systems. Not just government systems, but private systems. But you know, what the motives were in terms of the leaks, all that — I can’t say directly. What I do know is that Donald Trump has repeatedly expressed admiration for Vladimir Putin.”

Asked if he’s suggesting that Russian leader Vladimir Putin could be motivated to help Trump win the November 2016 election, Obama replies, “I am basing this on what Mr. Trump himself has said. And I think that — Trump’s gotten pretty favorable coverage­­­ — back in Russia.” (Politico, 7/26/2016)

He stops stopped short of accusing Russia of trying to manipulate the election, but says “anything’s possible.” He also claims that “on a regular basis, [the Russians] try to influence elections in Europe.” (The New York Times, 7/26/2016)

July 26, 2016: A cybersecurity group claims to have new evidence that Guccifer 2.0 is actually a team of Russian hackers.

Guccifer 2.0 is a hacker who claims he broke into the Democratic National Committtee (DNC) computer network and then gave the emails he found to WikiLeaks. He also claims to be an East European with no connection to Russia.

160726ThreatConnectLogopublic

Threat Connect Logo (Credit: public domain)

However, the cybersecurity research group ThreatConnect claims to have new evidence linking Guccifer 2.0 to an Internet server in Russia and to a digital address that has been linked to previous Russian online scams. They conclude that Guccifer 2.0 is actually an “apparition created under a hasty Russian [denial and deception] campaign” to influence political events in the US.

Their report concludes, “Maintaining a ruse of this nature within both the physical and virtual domains requires believable and verifiable events which do not contradict one another. That is not the case here.” For instance, Guccifer 2.0 claims to have broken into the DNC network in the summer of 2015 using a software flaw that didn’t exist until December 2015.

Furthermore, the Guccier 2.0 entity is “a Russia-controlled platform that can act as a censored hacktivist. Moscow determines what Guccifer 2.0 shares and thus can attempt to selectively impact media coverage, and potentially the election, in a way that ultimately benefits their national objectives.” (The Daily Beast, 7/26/2016)