The Federal Bureau of Investigation and the U.S. Department of Homeland Security published a 13-page report Thursday revealing details of their investigation into the Russian government’s links to the hacking of the Democratic National Committee (DNC) accounts. The report, however, does not refer to the party by name.
The agencies dubbed the Russian operation “Grizzly Steppe” and provided details about “the tools and infrastructure used by the Russian civilian and military intelligence Services (RIS) to compromise and exploit networks and endpoints associated with the U.S. election.”
The report adds that the operation included several targets other than the DNC, like government organizations, policy institutes, universities and corporations. “Grizzly Steppe” is still underway, the agencies said.
“Actors likely associated with [Russian Intelligence Services] are continuing to engage in spearphishing campaigns, including one launched as recently as November 2016, just days after the U.S. election,” the report said.
According to the report, the attack began in the summer of 2015 when hackers sent emails containing malware to over 1,000 people associated with U.S. government and political groups. The emails appeared to have come from legitimate websites linked to U.S. institutions. Those who were tricked into clicking on the email allowed the hackers to gain access to their accounts. The hackers eventually compromised key accounts to leak material focused on helping Donald Trump defeat Hillary Clinton, the report said.
“This activity by Russian intelligence services is part of a decade-long campaign of cyber-enabled operations directed at the U.S. government and its citizens,” the agencies said in a joint statement with the Office of the Director of National Intelligence. “The U.S. government seeks to arm network defenders with the tools they need to identify, detect and disrupt Russian malicious cyber activity that is targeting our country’s and our allies’ networks.”
President Barack Obama also announced new sanctions against Moscow on Thursday in response to allegations of Russian interference with the U.S. elections.
“All Americans should be alarmed by Russia’s actions. In October, my Administration publicized our assessment that Russia took actions intended to interfere with the U.S. election process,” Obama said. “These data theft and disclosure activities could only have been directed by the highest levels of the Russian government. Moreover, our diplomats have experienced an unacceptable level of harassment in Moscow by Russian security services and police over the last year. Such activities have consequences.”
Also on Thursday, Washington expelled 35 Russian diplomats from the U.S. and shut down two Moscow-controlled compounds in New York and Maryland. The diplomats were given 72 hours to leave the country. These actions were a response to Russia’s treatment of U.S. diplomats, a U.S. official told Reuters.
“These actions were taken to respond to Russian harassment of American diplomats and actions by the diplomats that we have assessed to be not consistent with diplomatic practice,” the official said.
The new sanctions were termed counterproductive and harmful to the restoration of bilateral ties, Konstantin Dolgov, Russia’s foreign ministry commissioner for human rights, democracy and the rule of law, reportedly said.
U.S. - Russia ties have deteriorated during the Obama administration with Washington condemning Moscow’s actions in Syria and Ukraine. President-elect Donald Trump, however, has repeatedly said he was willing to work with Russian President Vladimir Putin hoping to improve ties between the two countries. Trump had dismissed allegations of Russia influencing the U.S. election in his favor and opposed Obama’s decision to impose new sanctions against Moscow.
“I think we ought to get on with our lives,” the real estate mogul said Thursday. “I think that computers have complicated lives very greatly. The whole age of the computer has made it where nobody knows exactly what's going on.”