Governance & Risk Management , Incident & Breach Response , Managed Detection & Response (MDR)

Trump on Hack: 'I Think It Was Russia'

President-elect Discusses Intelligence Community's Report at Press Conference
Trump on Hack: 'I Think It Was Russia'
President-elect Donald Trump addresses the media.

President-elect Donald Trump says he accepts the assessment of the U.S. intelligence community that Russia President Vladimir Putin directed cyberattacks against Democratic Party computers and a social media campaign in an attempt to influence the results of the U.S. presidential election.

See Also: Deception-Based Threat Detection: Shifting Power to the Defenders

"As far as hacking, I think it was Russia," Trump said in a Jan. 11 press conference at Trump Tower in New York. "But I think we also get hacked by other countries and other people."

Although he accepted the intelligence community's report, Trump did not directly address its conclusion that the Russian government leaked documents from the breach of Democratic Party computers to harm the candidacy of Hillary Clinton in order to get Trump elected (see Intelligence Report Blames Putin for Election-Related Hacks).

Later in the press conference, Trump said Putin would not direct cyberattacks against the U.S. after he becomes president. "He shouldn't be doing it; he won't be doing it," Trump said. "Russia will have much greater respect for our country when I'm leading it than when other people have led it. You will see that. Russia will respect our country more. He shouldn't have done it, and I don't believe he'll be doing it more now."

Other Breaches

The president-elect said other countries have hacked critical U.S. systems, citing China's 2015 breach of the Office of Management Budget, in which the files containing personal information of 21.5 million individuals were exposed (see OPM's 2nd Breach: 21.5 Million Victims). "When we lost 22 million names and everything else that was hacked recently, they [the press] didn't make a great deal out of that was something extraordinary, that was probably China."

The OPM breach, however, received extensive media coverage at the time.

Earlier, Trump had criticized the intelligence community for linking the Russian hacking to influencing the U.S. presidential election. As recently as Jan. 3, he tweeted: "The 'Intelligence' briefing on so-called 'Russian hacking' was delayed until Friday, perhaps more time needed to build a case. Very strange!"

When asked whether he trusts U.S. intelligence officials, Trump answered: "Intelligence agencies are vital and very, very important." He then pointed out that he has nominated replacements for the director of national intelligence and CIA director - former Sen. Dan Coats, R-Ind., Rep. Mike Pompeo, R-Kan., respectively - a move that's typical when a new administration comes to power. And, he said that within 90 days of the start of his presidency on Jan. 20, the intelligence leaders will present a plan to defend the United States against cyberattacks. "The United States is hacked by everybody," he said.

Trump discusses what he sees as weak federal government cybersecurity.

Trump also claimed that among all critical infrastructure sectors designated by the Department of Homeland Security, the government comes in last in regards to IT security. He said that the current administration has the mindset that led to the hacking of the Democratic National Committee and instead should follow the cyber defense practices adopted by the Republican National Committee.

FBI Director James Comey has said that only legacy RNC computers were hacked by the Russians, but attempts to breach the GOP's current IT system failed (see Senate Panel Reacts to Report on Pre-Election Hacks, Leaks).

On Being Blackmailed

Trump also angrily condemned Buzzfeed for publishing an unverified document that contends personal and financial information about the president-elect, including hotel-room videos relating to his allegedly engaging in sexual acts with prostitutes, could be used to blackmail him. The report also claims that his top advisers maintain deep ties to the Russian government (see 'Explosive' Report Details Alleged Russia-Trump Team Ties).

President-elect Donald Trump explains why he cannot be blackmailed.

Trump called the report "fake news." In denying any truth in the Buzzfeed report, Trump characterized the news website as a "failing pile of garbage," adding that "they are going to suffer the consequences."

Trump then thanked the mainstream media outlets that had seen the unverified document but did not publish it.

About the Author

Eric Chabrow

Eric Chabrow

Retired Executive Editor, GovInfoSecurity

Chabrow, who retired at the end of 2017, hosted and produced the semi-weekly podcast ISMG Security Report and oversaw ISMG's GovInfoSecurity and InfoRiskToday. He's a veteran multimedia journalist who has covered information technology, government and business.

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