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Obama Orders Inquiry Into Cyberattacks On Democratic Party Websites

President wants U.S. intelligence to provide report before he leaves office Jan. 20.

President Obama has ordered U.S. intelligence agencies to conduct a full review of several election-related hacking incidents earlier this year, which many believe were an attempt by the Russian government to meddle with the US election process.

The President expects a report on the review before his term officially ends next month, White House counterterrorism adviser Lisa Monaco reportedly said at a breakfast organized by the Christian Science Monitor in Washington, Friday.

“We may have crossed into a new threshold and it is incumbent upon us to take stock of that,” the Washington Post quoted Monaco as saying. The goal of the review is to understand what happened, conduct “some after-action” and impart lessons learned to the relevant stakeholders.

Monaco did not indicate if the results of the review would be shared publicly.

It is unclear what might have prompted the White House call for the new investigation of intrusions into the websites of the Democratic National Committee, the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee (DCCC), and Hillary Clinton’s campaign website earlier this year.

Thousands of emails and documents stolen in the intrusions were later posted on WikiLeaks and other websites, causing embarrassment to Democratic Party members, some of whom were force to resign.

Many believed the attacks were politically motivated and designed to swing the election in then presidential candidate Donald Trump’s favor. Several lawmakers from the Democratic Party have asked for more information on the intrusions to be released to them.

An individual or group using the handle Guccifer 2.0 has claimed credit for the DNC intrusion, while several security vendors have attributed the attacks to Fancy Bear and Cozy Bear, two groups with supposed links to the Russian government.

The Department of Homeland Security and the Office of the Director of National Intelligence on Election Security laid the blame for the attacks squarely on the Russian government. In a joint statement in October, the two agencies described the intrusions as an attempt 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 had noted. It went on to say that based on the scope of the attacks and the kind of data that was exposed, only senior-most officials in the Russian government could have authorized them.

The FBI too has pointed to Russian involvement in the intrusions.

President-elect Trump himself has said he does not believe the Russian government had a hand in the hacking. In an interview with Time magazine, Trump said that he believes the conclusion made by US intelligence agencies of Russian involvement, is politically motivated. “I don’t believe it. I don’t believe they interfered,” he told Time.

John Bambenek, threat systems manager of Fidelis Cybersecurity, said it is unclear what new insight Obama is hoping to gain from the new review. “I’m not sure what the point of this investigation is other than to repeat what has already been claimed, that Russia hacked political entities in the United States in an attempt to use stolen emails and documents to paint a candidate in a poor light,” he said in a statement. 

It is likely that President Obama is trying to preempt Trump from deflecting the blame or casting doubt on the findings by the intelligence agencies, Bambenek added.

“The President’s decision to launch a full investigation into foreign efforts to hack political entities in the United States is unsurprising but welcome,” noted Michael Gottlieb, former associate White House Counsel and partner at Washington law firm Boies, Schiller & Flexner LLP in a statement. “All Americans should be concerned with attempted foreign interference in U.S. elections, regardless of which party or candidate is targeted,” said Gottlieb, who also represented Sony Pictures following the 2014 data breach at the company.

Meanwhile, in a separate but somewhat related development, Georgia’s Secretary of State Brian Kemp this week sent a letter to DHS secretary Jeh Johnson demanding to know why an IP address associated with the DHS made an unsuccessful attempt to breach his office’s firewall. The systems that were targeted contained personal data on 6.5 million residents of Georgia as well as corporate and other information The Hill quoted the letter as saying.

Prior to the elections the DHS had offered to help state election bodies secure voting systems and databases against cyber attacks. But Kemp said his office had never granted DHS the permission to do penetration tests or security scans of its networks. He wanted an explanation from Johnson on why the agency had apparently illegally attempted to access its systems.

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Jai Vijayan is a seasoned technology reporter with over 20 years of experience in IT trade journalism. He was most recently a Senior Editor at Computerworld, where he covered information security and data privacy issues for the publication. Over the course of his 20-year ... View Full Bio

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User Rank: Apprentice
12/10/2016 | 6:09:15 PM
Re: The Russians are coming, The Russians are coming.
It is refreshing to see a non-partisan response since all of the hullabaloo is geared ultimately to make the Trump win illegitimate.

On view is an elitist media, political party, and POTUS who are bound and determined never to give up their hold on power. In fact, it is setting up a Hillary-like scenario for the Trump presidency where Obama will continue to get donations to undermine all of the Trump accomplishments in reversing the "change" Obama initiated, and will continue to initiate.

If one considers the 80,000 business-killing regulations the POTUS has put in place, and his race to put 7,000 more in place before January 20, 2017. Is there any other way to consider the last 8 years as community-organizing on a scale never before attempted or accomplished? It is replete with executive orders, and career civil servants put in place as an infrastructure in all levels of government to assure change!

It is important to recognize that the change President Trump will initiate has not been seen since the heyday of John D. Rockefeller, J.P. Morgan, and Dale Carnegie who collectively made America exceptional! Is it any wonder the opposing forces represented by the POTUS, elitist media, and Democratic Party are so threatened?

Therefore, all they can do is project their shortcomings on the Russians who have better things to do. Remember, the prime element of projection is attributing to others your most negative characteristics!
User Rank: Apprentice
12/10/2016 | 2:43:28 PM
Re: The Russians are coming, The Russians are coming.
Intelligently articulated points. Some additional factors to them are:

1. the source of the intrusions could just as easily been Chinese, Anonymous, the NSA. I have heard that some factions within the NSA were very upset by the Clinton SoS e-mail issues and NSA has access to all worldwide data exchanges.

2. maybe it wasn't an incursion at all. maybe it was an exfiltration - maybe by Seth Rich. Maybe need a much deeper investigation into what happened to him.
BPID Security
BPID Security,
User Rank: Strategist
12/10/2016 | 10:23:41 AM
The Russians are coming, The Russians are coming.
It is clear that Podesta is a fool when it comes to security. That his account was compromised from an IP in Eastern Europe is not a fact because proxy, VPN and even personal computers can shield the true originator. The method of technology use in cybercrime is also not an indication as tools to compromise are open and available to the 'dark web' and its users.

It is clear that the DNC was compromised. Again there has not been a single factual proof that the compromise was initiated exclusively external. Frankly, a Bernie supporter with access could easily have sold or passed sufficient credentials to whistleblowers for them to access certainly immoral activity inside the DNC. A Bernie supporter with access would certainly have justification to blow that whistle and after seeing how we responded to Snowden would have hidden their tracks well.

To the extent that HRC used her insecure server for personal and questionable activity does not again prove that there was a Russian conspiracy but rather that there was wholesale cyber stupidity.

It should be inconceivable that the innuendo of conspiracy supersedes basic ignorance and stupidity. But we had Joseph McCarthy, and now Obama and HRC.

Seriously, if I leave my car in a high risk area, with the keys in it, unlocked, the windows down, and the motor running, while I rob a bank, should I return to find my car missing do I have the right of immunity, the right to scream violation or expect a posse to go fetch it immediately?

It seems that Obama has a double standard for cybercrime. The NSA's and CIA's intervention into personal and sovereign privacy is tantamount to opening the gates.

As for HRC, DNC, and Podesta, ignorance and laziness is simply no excuse. Do as I say not as I do, blaming others for your own is simply passing the buck, and Russian conspirators are an easy target.
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