Russian Hackers Stole Democratic Party’s Research on Donald Trump

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Russian hackers gained access to the computer network of the Democratic National Committee (DNC) and stole its research on presumptive Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump.

The DNC hired CrowdStrike, a cybersecurity firm, to investigate the suspicious activities on its computer system, which was noticed by its IT Department. The DNC also contacted the FBI regarding the hacking incident.

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In a statement, DNC Chairperson Debbie Wasserman Schultz said, “The security of our system is critical to our operation and to the confidence of the campaigns and state parties we work with. When we discovered the intrusion, we treated this like the serious incident it is and reached out to CrowdStrike immediately. Our team moved as quickly as possible to kick out the intruders and secure our network.”

Two groups of Russian hackers infiltrated DNC

CrowdStrike found the two groups of hackers intruded the DNC’s computer system. The hacker group code named Cozy Bear gained access into the committee’s system last summer and monitored its e-mails and chat communications.

According to CrowdStrike Cozy Bear was responsible for infiltrating the unclassified networks of the White House, State Department, and the U.S. Joint Chiefs of Staff. It also organizations in different sectors in the U.S. and other countries including Brazil, China, Japan, Mexico, New Zealand and others.

CrowdStrike called the other group Fancy Bear broke into the DNC’s network in April to obtain opposition research files. Fancy Bear managed to hack all of the computers of the committee’s research staff. This hacker group was behind the targeted intrusions in the aerospace, defense, energy, government and media sectors in the U.S., Western Europe, Canada, China, Japan and other countries.

In a blog post, CrowdStrike co-founder and CTO Dmitri Alperovitch said the hacker groups did not coordinate their activities.  According to him, “We have identified no collaboration between the two actors, or even an awareness of one by the other. Instead, we observed the two Russian espionage groups compromise the same systems and engage separately in the theft of identical credentials. While you would virtually never see Western intelligence agencies going after the same target without de-confliction for fear of compromising each other’s operations, in Russia this is not an uncommon scenario.”

No personal information were stolen

DNC officials said the investigation on the hacking incident is ongoing. According to them, it appears that the hackers did not steal the personal information of employees, donors, or voters.

A former DNC official told Politico that the hackers accessed a “great library of materials on Trump, but it’s not anything they couldn’t have gotten themselves from libraries around the country.” He also emphasized that the committee does not collect Social Security Numbers and other private information.

Russia is “meddling in our personal affairs”

Former U.S. Ambassador to Russia Michel McFaul commented, “Russia has tremendous capabilities, both the Russian government and their proxies and people somewhat affiliated with the government. We always underestimate their capabilities.” He called the intrusion “meddling in our personal affairs.”

McFaul added that the Russian hackers do not want to be caught and intended to gather information without being detected. He added that Russians wanting to know things about what’s going on in the U.S. is a kind of target that makes senses. He said, “Whether they were doing it to try to manipulate our political process, I’d have to think about that.”

Dmitry Peskov, a spokesman for President Vladimir Putin denied Russia’s involvement in the hacking. He said, “I completely rule out a possibility that the (Russian) government or the government bodies have been involved in this.”

Trump has been interested in Russia since the 1980s. An article published by Vanity Fair in 1990 indicated that he offered to serve as negotiator with Russia.

Reuters also obtained information indicating that Trump to participate in business deal in Russia in 2004, 2008, and 2013.  The presumptive Republican presidential nominee worked with Aras Agalarov, an Azerbaijani Russian, in setting up the Miss Universe Competition in Moscow in 2013.

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