Donald Trump on Monday night questioned the widely held belief that Russian intelligence agents were behind the Democratic National Committee hack.
"I don't know if we know it was Russia who broke into the DNC," the GOP presidential candidate said when the first presidential debate turned to the topic of cybersecurity. "She keeps saying 'Russia, Russia, Russia,' and maybe it was. It could be Russia but it could be China, could also be lots of other people. It could be someone sitting on their bed that weighs 400 pounds."
While Trump might not be certain about the source of the attack, the consensus is pretty strong among law enforcement and analysts: Russian intelligence was almost certainly behind it, or at least involved.
Last week, U.S. Director of National Intelligence James Clapper — in his most explicit comments to date — suggested Russia was behind the breach and subsequent leaks, The Wall Street Journal reported. Clapper pointed out that the Russian spies have targeted the U.S. since the 1960s and that the most recent attacks perhaps seem more shocking because they employed cybertools.
Also, a cybersecurity firm employed by the DNC to investigate the breach found evidence of two Russian intelligence-affiliated groups present in the DNC network in May.
To be sure, the FBI is still investigating the DNC hack — believed to have taken place over a year-long period — which came to light in April with the publication of leaked emails sufficiently embarrassing and well-timed to force the resignation of key DNC staffers ahead of the Democratic National Convention.
The White House has tiptoed around blaming Russian President Vladimir Putin directly, citing the ongoing FBI investigation, but President Barack Obama has said cyberexperts implicated Russia in the hack and that Russia stands to benefit from a Trump White House win.