The U.S. on Thursday released its most detailed report yet on Russia’s efforts to interfere in the U.S. presidential election by hacking American political sites and email accounts. The 13-page joint analysis by the Homeland Security Department and the Federal Bureau of Investigation was first such report ever to attribute malicious cyber activity to a particular country or actors. It was also the first time the U.S. has officially and specifically tied intrusions into the Democratic National Committee to hackers with the Russian civilian and military intelligence services, the FSB and GRU, expanding on an Oct. 7 accusation by the Obama administration. The report said the intelligence services were involved in “an ongoing campaign of cyber-enabled operations directed at the U.S. government and its citizens.” It added, “In some cases, (the Russian intelligence services’) actors masqueraded as third parties, hiding behind false online personas designed to cause the victim to misattribute the source of the attack.”
Over the summer stolen emails from Democrats were posted by an online persona known as Guccifer 2.0, believed by U.S. officials to be linked to Russia. Outrage over documents that appeared to show favoritism for Hillary Clinton forced the DNC’s chair, Debbie Wasserman Schultz, to resign.
The U.S. released the report as President Barack Obama sanctioned the GRU and the FSB, the GRU’s leadership and companies which the U.S. said support the GRU.
Thursday’s sanctions were the administration’s first use of a 2015 executive order for combatting cyberattacks against critical infrastructure and commercial espionage. Because election systems aren’t considered critical infrastructure, Obama amended the order Thursday to allow for sanctions on entities “interfering with or undermining election processes or institutions.”