While he maintained Thursday that the Russian government wasn't behind the attacks, he said hackers anywhere could make their efforts appear that they came from the state.
"The most important this is that we don't do that on government level," he said. "Secondly, I can imagine that some purposefully does that, building the chain of these attacks in a way to make it seem that Russia is the source of these attacks. Modern technology allows to do that quite easily."
However, he said that even if hackers did intervene it's unlikely they could swing a foreign election.
"No hacker can affect an electoral campaign in any country, be it Europe, Asia or America."
"I'm certain that no hackers can influence an electoral campaign in another country. It's just not going to settle on the voter's mind, on the nation's mind," he added.
The Justice Department announced charges Monday against a federal contractor with Top Secret security clearance, after she allegedly leaked classified information to an online media outlet.
Reality Leigh Winner, 25, a contractor with Pluribus International Corporation in Georgia, is accused of "removing classified material from a government facility and mailing it to a news outlet," according to a federal complaint.
CNN is told by sources that the document Winner allegedly leaked is the same one used as the basis for the article published Monday by The Intercept, detailing a classified National Security Agency memo. The NSA report, dated May 5, provides details of a 2016 Russian military intelligence cyberattack on a US voting software supplier, though there is no evidence that any votes were affected by the hack.
US intelligence officials tell CNN that the information has not changed the January 2017 Intelligence Community Assessment, which found: "Russian intelligence obtained and maintained access to elements of multiple US state or local electoral boards. DHS assesses that the types of systems Russian actors targeted or compromised were not involved in vote tallying."
Its article, drawn from a classified National Security Agency document the Intercept said it received anonymously, exposed “a months-long Russian intelligence cyber effort against elements of the U.S. election and voting infrastructure.” Absent the website’s publication, we might never have learned about the Russian attack aimed at a U.S. vendor of voter registration systems.
But about an hour after the article was posted online, federal agents arrested a federal contractor named Reality Winner, 25, and charged her with violating government security laws, specifically “removing classified material from a government facility and mailing it to a news outlet.” The Intercept isn’t identified in the government’s announcement of the arrest, but she appears to be the alleged leaker.
The question is how the government identified her so quickly, and the answer may be that she was inadvertently outed by the Intercept itself. That’s because the website posted an image of the leaked document containing an almost-invisible code applied by the printer that produced the document sent to the Intercept, identifying its model and serial number, along with the time and date it was printed out.
“Because the NSA logs all printing jobs on its printers, it can use this to match up precisely who printed the document,” observes cybersecurity expert Rob Graham of Errata Security.
"Donald Trump's frequent threats against leakers paved the way for Reality Winner's arrest," HuffPost wrote. "The crackdown on leaks has begun in earnest," a New York Times national security reporter said on Twitter. Organizers of a rally in New York called the arrest "the opening salvo in the Trump Administration's self-described war on leaks" and said Winner "deserves widespread support." Edward Snowden said the law under which Winner was charged "must be resisted." On social media, people called Winner a "hero" and a "whistleblower" and began raising money to support her and her family.
But put aside Trump's vows to crack down on leakers amid a steady stream of embarrassing revelations. There is nothing surprising or unusual about the criminal charges against Winner. Nor is there any indication that the White House had any involvement in this matter. The fact that Trump wants to silence leakers does not turn Winner into a whistleblower or a martyr of "the resistance," no matter how much some may wish to applaud her actions. In our system, someone doesn't earn the title whistleblower just because her actions might support a particular ideological agenda. The classified document Winner allegedly revealed was obviously newsworthy, but nothing in it exposes any type of fraud, waste or abuse — or, most important, any unlawful conduct by the U.S. government. If she was indeed the source of the news website Intercept's reporting, Winner failed to blow the whistle on anything.
As a matter of law, no one who leaks classified information to the media instead of to an appropriate governmental authority is a whistleblower entitled to legal protection. That applies to Winner, Snowden and Chelsea Manning, no matter what one thinks of their actions. The law, appropriately, protects only those who follow it. Anyone who acts contrary does so at their own peril.