Obama orders review of election hacks as Trump doubts Russia's role

The review is scheduled to be completed before Obama leaves office

President Barack Obama has ordered U.S. intelligence agencies to conduct a full review of the cyberattacks that allegedly tried to disrupt this year's election, as his successor Donald Trump casts doubt over Russia's possible involvement. 

Obama's homeland security advisor Lisa Monaco first mentioned the need for the review while speaking to reporters on Friday morning, according to Politico.

"We may be crossed into a new threshold, and it is incumbent upon us to take stock of that, to review, to conduct some after-action, to understand what this means, and to impart those lessons learned," Monaco reportedly said.

The review is scheduled to be completed before Obama leaves office on Jan. 20. It will produce a report that will be shared with members of Congress, some of whom have already been calling for a wider investigation.

On Friday, Obama deputy press secretary Eric Schultz said the review will also look into election hacking activities that took place prior to this year's presidential race and will also go back to 2008. The president intends to make as much of the report as public as possible.

In October, U.S. intelligence agencies publicly blamed the Russian government for sponsoring high-profile hacks against U.S. political targets as a way to interfere with the election. However, the intelligence agencies didn’t provide specific evidence to support their claims.

Among the hacks was a high-profile breach at the Democratic National Committee that some security firms blamed on elite Russian cyberespionage teams. Sensitive files from the DNC were stolen as part of that hack and then leaked online, potentially damaging presidential candidate Hillary Clinton's reputation. 

Russian hackers also allegedly stole emails from a Clinton aide that were later published by WikiLeaks just weeks before Election Day. 

Russia has denied any involvement. But that hasn't stopped U.S. lawmakers from drafting legislation that would form a bipartisan commission to investigate the Russian government's possible role in the hacks.

The Obama administration has also considered retaliating against Russia for the alleged cyberattacks. However, President-elect Donald Trump voiced doubts about the Russian government's involvement.

“It could be Russia. And it could be China. And it could be some guy in his home in New Jersey,” Trump said in an interview with Time magazine conducted in late November.

On Friday, Representative Adam Schiff, California Democrat, said he approved the Obama's administration move asking for a full review of the hacking. He also called Trump’s denial of Russian involved "disturbing," and said the U.S. needed to respond to the Kremlin's cyber meddling. 

"After many briefings by our intelligence community, it is clear to me that the Russians hacked our democratic institutions and sought to interfere in our elections and sow discord," Schiff said in a statement.

John Bambenek, a researcher at security firm Fidelis Cybersecurity, said the goal of Obama's review was to probably prevent Trump from further casting doubt on Russia's alleged involvement in the hacks.

"It does seem that President Obama wants to make a strong case that Russia was involved and potentially box President-elect Trump in on deflecting blame," Bambenek said in an email.

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Michael Kan

IDG News Service
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