MS Risk Blog

Congress Begins Probe into Russia Cyber Attacks

Posted on in United States title_rule

On Thursday 5 January, top US intelligence officials told a congressional hearing that Russian cyber attacks pose a “major threat” to the United States. The statement comes despite scepticism from President-elect Donald Trump about findings that Moscow orchestrated hacking of the 2016 presidential election.

On Thursday, Director of National Intelligence James Clapper, National Security Agency Director Mike Rogers and Undersecretary of Defense for Intelligence Marcel Lettre testified before the Senate Armed Services Committee, which is chaired by Republican John McCain, who has been a vocal critic of Russian President Vladimir Putin. During the hearing, the intelligence officers described Moscow as a major threat to a wide range of US interests because of its “highly-advanced offensive cyber programme” and sophisticated capabilities. In a joint statement, they disclosed that “Russia is a full-scope cyber actor the poses a major threat to US government, military, diplomatic, commercial and critical infrastructure.”

US intelligence agencies say that Russia was behind hacks into Democratic Party organizations and operatives before the election. This conclusion is supported by a number of private Cybersecurity firms. US intelligence officials have said that the Russian cyber attacks were aimed at helping Mr Trump defeat Democrat Hillary Clinton in the 8 November election. While several Republicans have acknowledged the Russian hacking, they have not linked it to an effort to help Mr Trump win. Moscow has denied the hacking allegations. Last week, President Barack Obama ordered the expulsion of 35 Russian suspected spies and imposed sanction on two Russian intelligence agencies over their alleged involvement in hacking US political group sin the 2016 election.

While on Thursday, Mr Trump called himself a “big fan” of the intelligence community, analysts have indicated that he is heading for a conflict over the issue with Democrats and with some fellow Republicans in Congress. Tensions are rising as many lawmakers are wary of Moscow and distrust Mr Trump’s praise of Russian President Vladimir Putin and efforts to heal a rift between the US and Russia.

Sources have indicated that Mr Trump, who will become the US President on 20 January, will be briefed by intelligence agency chiefs on 6 January on hacks that targeted the Democratic Party during the presidential election campaign that he won.