Both Hillary Clinton’s and Donald Trump’s presidential campaigns have been targeted by hackers linked to Russian intelligence, according to U.S. intelligence sources, who describe a wide-ranging effort by Moscow to collect intelligence about the U.S. election — and possibly even influence it.
Earlier on Tuesday, reports surfaced that state-sponsored hackers in Russia had penetrated the computer systems of the Democratic National Committee, seeking opposition-research files on Trump. The additional disclosures suggest an even broader effort by Moscow’s cyberespionage agents.
As first reported by the Washington Post, the penetration prompted the DNC to bring in an outside computer security firm, CrowdStrike, last April. The consultants linked the attack to what it believed were two separate Russian intelligence organizations: the Federal Security Service, or FSB, intelligence service and the country’s military intelligence organization, known as the GRU.
The DNC’s security experts then monitored the GRU hackers, whom they codenamed “Fancy Bear,” as they swiped files and memos that Democratic “oppo” researchers had compiled on Trump, his past business deals and other aspects of his career. “We were watching these people for six weeks,” said one source familiar with the DNC’s internal investigation. “Their activity would take place from 9 to 5 Moscow time.”
But sources familiar with the investigations tell Yahoo News that the Russian state-sponsored attack — reminiscent of a Chinese intelligence intrusion into the campaigns of Barack Obama and John McCain in 2008 — was much more extensive than the DNC hack. “It’s broader,” one senior U.S. official said of the Russian hack. The campaigns both of the real estate mogul and of the former secretary of state were targeted by the Russians, sources said, although it is not clear that the state-sponsored hackers in fact penetrated the campaigns. “We have no evidence that our information systems have been compromised,” said a Clinton campaign official, who asked not to be identified by name. The Trump campaign did not respond to a request for comment.
The possibility that American political campaigns were under attack from foreign spies was first raised last month by James Clapper, the director of national intelligence. He said then that “there were some indications” that cyberhackers, possibly associated with foreign governments, were seeking to penetrate the campaigns.
Although Clapper gave no details, the comments alarmed the DNC’s security experts, who were trying to defend their system. They worried that the comments would alert the Russian hackers to the fact that the penetration had been discovered, according to a source familiar with the investigation.
Dmitri Alperovitch, a top CrowdStrike executive, said in a blog posting about the investigation that the Russian hackers were highly sophisticated and are likely to have used “spear-phishing” emails to DNC employees to penetrate the committee’s computer systems. “Their tradecraft is superb, operational security second to none,” he wrote.
Alperovitch, noting that the FSB-linked hackers had been associated last year with attacks on unclassified networks at the White House, the State Department and the Joint Chiefs of Staff, portrayed the attack as part of the Russian intelligence services’ “extensive political and economic espionage.”
But one theory being explored by U.S. intelligence officials and private security experts is that the Russians may have motives beyond intelligence gathering, including potentially influencing the outcome of the election. This could happen, they speculate, by leaking the DNC’s oppo research files to the campaign of the presumptive Republican nominee, giving advance warning of possible lines of attack. Trump has indicated respect and even affinity for Russian president Vladimir Putin and has suggested that he may seek to curtail U.S. support for NATO, a long-standing Russian ambition. “We know they like Trump,” said one security expert who has been briefed on the Russian penetration of the DNC. “One reason they may have been doing this is to feed the information to Trump.”
Culled From Yahoo News.