Democrat computer hacked by Russian intelligence agencies and lifted opposition data on ‘The Donald’
The finger of suspicion has been pointed at the Russian government and its intelligence agencies after the computer network belonging to the Democratic National Committee (DNC) was hacked.
The Russian hackers reportedly managed to steal confidential information including data on Donald Trump that the Democrats had hoped to use against the Republican presidential candidate in the forthcoming election.
The hackers, said the Washington Post, managed to gain access to the entire database of opposition research on Donald Trump.
It quoted committee officials and CrowdStrike security experts who responded to the breach as its source.
The sophisticated hackers had apparently so thoroughly compromised the DNC’s system that they also were able to read all email and chat traffic. The attackers also had access to the DNC network for about a year, but the hackers were removed last weekend during a major computer cleanup campaign.
The DNC told the Post that no financial, donor or personal information appeared to have been accessed or taken, which it said suggested the breach was traditional espionage, and not the work of criminal hackers.
“It’s the job of every foreign intelligence service to collect intelligence against their adversaries,” Shawn Henry, president of CrowdStrike, the security firm called in to handle the DNC breach was quoted as saying by the Washington Post.
Henry is a former head of the FBI’s cyber division and he noted that it is extremely difficult for a civilian organisation to protect itself from a skilled and determined state such as Russia.
“We’re perceived as an adversary of Russia,” he reportedly said. “Their job when they wake up every day is to gather intelligence against the policies, practices and strategies of the US government. There are a variety of ways. [Hacking] is one of the more valuable because it gives you a treasure trove of information.”
The Russian search for data on Trump is curious, considering the controversial republican has called for friendlier relations with Russian President Vladimir Putin. That said, Trump is an unknown person on the political scene, why could explain why the Russians are seeking more intelligence on him.
“The purpose of such intelligence gathering is to understand the target’s proclivities,” Robert Deitz, former senior councillor to the CIA director and a former general counsel at the National Security Agency was quoted as saying.
“Trump’s foreign investments, for example, would be relevant to understanding how he would deal with countries where he has those investments” should he be elected,” he reportedly said. “They may provide tips for understanding his style of negotiating. In short, this sort of intelligence could be used by Russia, for example, to indicate where it can get away with foreign adventurism.”
The United States later said the hackers had also hacked into the White House’s computer systems and were able to obtain sensitive information about President Obama, including his private schedule.
In response to repeated hacks by foreign governments, Obama last year launched a punishment scheme usually reserved for terrorist organisations and rogue states.
He created a US sanctions program, which uses sanctions to financially punish individuals and groups outside the United States who are involved with malicious cyber attacks.
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