WASHINGTON — The National Security Agency publicly accused Russian government hackers of targeting email servers around the world in an unusual announcement on Thursday, showing that the agency is becoming more aggressive in calling out Moscow’s action as the presidential election approaches.
While the Trump administration has publicly attributed cyberattacks to Russia before — including for its 2016 election hack and for paralyzing Ukraine in 2017, which damaged the operations of the shippers Maersk and FedEx — this allegation was unusually specific. It singled out Russia’s military intelligence unit, widely known as the G.R.U., demonstrating intelligence agencies’ concern that Russia intends to interfere in the election only a little more than five months away.
But it also comes as President Trump has renewed his baseless claims that the investigation into Russia’s activities was part of a “hoax” intended by Democrats to paralyze him. He has publicly questioned Russia’s culpability in the election hacking and appeared to accept President Vladimir V. Putin’s argument that Russia was so good at cyberoperations that it would never have been caught.
“There has been a reluctance to be critical of Russia because of echoes of investigations,” said retired Gen. Martin E. Dempsey, the former chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff. “For the N.S.A. to do that, in this climate, they must have absolutely incontrovertible evidence.”
The “Sandworm Team,” a group of G.R.U. hackers, tried to use a vulnerability in computer networks to gain access to them, the National Security Agency said. It did not say which networks were compromised.
But the software targeted by the hackers, Exim, is a commonly used email transfer program, used by some Unix computers. Exim was developed at Cambridge University and is frequently used in Britain (continued at the New York Times website…)