US officials have formally accused Russia of cyber attacks against political parties aimed at 'interfering' with the upcoming presidential elections. Washington officials have said that they believe these attacks were orchestrated by hackers backed by the Russian government.
The Department of Homeland Security have said recent hacked emails are "consistent with the methods and motivation of Russia-directed efforts". These "motivations" are perceived as disrupting Democratic Party candidate Hillary Clinton's bid for the White House.
Earlier this year data revealing delicate discussions from within the Democratic Party were hacked and indicated that officials were biased against Bernie Sanders in his battle with Clinton to become Democratic candidate. The breach, committed by a hacker called Guccifer 2.0, stole gigabytes of files including emails and other documents.
The breach sparked protests at the national convention in Philadelphia and led to the resignation of party chairwoman Debbie Wasserman Schultz. Initial suspicions that Moscow were to blame were denounced by Russia citing "poisonous anti-Russian" rhetoric.
A joint statement, released on Friday (7 October), from the Department of Homeland Security and the Director of National Intelligence on Election Security said that high-ranking Kremlin officials "authorised" the actions. "We believe, based on the scope and sensitivity of these efforts, that only Russia's senior-most officials could have authorized these activities," it read.
Also, some states have reported "scanning and probing" attempts made on "election-related" computer systems ahead of the 8 November presidential election. However, officials did stress that these attempts could not be directly linked to the Russian government, but that those systems originated in most cases from servers operated by a company inside the country.
"These thefts and disclosures are intended to interfere with the U.S. election process," the statement said. "However, we are not now in a position to attribute this activity to the Russian Government," the statement said before the joint statement said that altering any ballots or election results would be "extremely difficult".
The latest words from Washington are set to fuel further tension between the US and Russia as the two former Cold War foes clash on a range of international issues from war in Syria, the annexation of Ukraine, spying and cyberspace.
Just two days ago Russia was forced to deny allegations that two US diplomats were spiked with date rape drugs as part of an "escalating harassment" of American officials. The two US diplomats were alleged to have been targeted while attending a United Nations (UN) conference in St Petersburg, Russia, in 2015.