President Obama said that the United States’ response to Russian hacking during the election will be between the U.S. government and the Russian government.
“There are times where the message will be privately received by the Russians and will not be publicized,” Obama said.
Obama said that talking privately with relevant foreign officials could be more effective and provide less escalation than making public vows of retaliation.
“Our goal continues to be to send a clear message to Russia or others not to do this to us because we can do stuff to you,” Obama said.
Obama said that over the summer, his administration was alerted that the Democratic National Committee was hacked. Obama ordered intelligence officials and law enforcement to investigate that hack and brief the people who were hacked as well as Congress. The administration announced that the hack was perpetrated by the Russians once it was certain of the facts, according to Obama.
Obama said that the administration didn’t make any assumptions as to what the Russians’ motives were in hacking the DNC.
“We allowed you and the American public to make an assessment,” Obama said to journalists at his last press conference of the year Friday.
Obama said that he talked with Russian President Vladimir Putin individually and told him to “cut it out,” rather than make a public statement.
Obama said that he was more focused on making sure that hackers didn’t try to tamper with the direct election process, such as vote tabulation systems. Obama said that his administration found no evidence of voting machines being tampered with.
“I can assure the public that there was not the kind of tampering with the voting process that was of concern,” Obama said.
Obama said that breach of the DNC emails wasn’t a “complicated espionage scheme.”
“Everybody had the information that was out there and we handled it the way we should have,” Obama said.
Obama said that one of the major problems was the cycle of news coverage that focused too heavily on Democratic candidate Hillary Clinton’s “mundane” emails while she was secretary of State.
“This was an obsession that dominated the news coverage,” Obama said.
Obama said that this incident proves that the Federal government must focus on constantly updating its cybersecurity systems. Obama referenced the report released on Dec. 2 from the Cybersecurity Commission that made suggestions on how to improve the nation’s cyber infrastructure. Obama said that one of the problems is that there are many targets of hacking and most of them are private companies. Therefore, the government needs to work to educate companies on best practices to avoid data breaches. Obama said that his administration has also worked to establish international norms to prevent a cyber arms race.
The president said that the issue of cyber interference in the presidential election is a bipartisan issue that his administration and President-elect Donald Trump’s administration should agree on, despite the fact that Trump continues to deny that the Russians attempted to skew the election.
“There hasn’t been any squabbling,” Obama said of his and Trump’s administration. “We have done everything we can to make sure that they’ll be successful.”