Contributed by Jeffrey Sebranek
The 2016 DNC Hacking
Two nebulous Russian hacking organizations have recently infiltrated the network of the Democratic National Committee, making off with emails, chats and a cache of opposition research on presumptive Republican Presidential nominee Donald Trump according to the DNC and cybersecurity firm Crowdstrike.
The DNC learned of the hack in late April when their IT team began noticing unusual network activity.
Crowdstrike CEO Dmitri Alperovitch identified two separate hacker groups as being responsible for the breach. Both are known to have ties to Putin’s government, though it appears they were not necessarily working in tandem.
One group with ties to Russian intelligence dubbed Cozy Bear or APT 29 placed espionage software on the committee’s computer servers the previous summer, enjoying an entire year of generally unimpeded access to DNC information. The breach went unnoticed until the second group called Fancy Bear or APT 28, with ties to the GRU, Russian military intelligence, breached the network and stole the opposition research on Trump. It’s believed that they gained access by targeting DNC employees through spear phishing emails, a common tactic of BEC and identity scams, which allowed the hackers to implant spyware.1
Russia Denies Involvement
For its part, Russian officials are completely denying any involvement. Dmitry Peskov, a spokesman for President Vladimir Putin offered this terse denial: “I absolutely rule out the possibility that the government or government agencies were involved in this.”2
German Klimenko, Putin’s top Internet adviser, furthered this claim with: “Well, it’s always simpler to explain this away as the intrigues of enemies, rather than one’s own incompetence.”
So, according to DNC and its cybersecurity firm Crowdstrike, Russian state-backed hackers are to blame for the breach; the story doesn’t end there, however. On June 15th a hacker ostensibly from Romania, calling himself Guccifer 2.0, released on a WordPress blog documents that he supposedly pilfered from DNC over the course of a year of invading their servers, including the opposition research on one Donald J. Trump, and lists of large money contributors to the DNC, a list which includes names like Morgan Freeman and Steven Spielberg.3
The hacker chose his moniker as an homage to the original Guccifer, Marcel Lazar who pleaded guilty in May to two felony counts of unauthorized access and identity theft stemming from a series of hacks perpetrated on Hillary Clinton’s private email server. Lazar was serving a sentence in a Romanian court before being extradited to the U.S. earlier this year. Guccifer 2.0 claims to have had access to the DNC servers for over a year and has gathered thousands of documents that he purportedly released to WikiLeaks for analysis and publication.
Who Really Hacked the DNC?
Lamenting about the mainstream media’s general disregard of his published documents, Guccifer 2.0 has taken to Twitter and his blog in an attempt to get in touch with reporters willing to continue pressing into this story via private direct message.
Along with some interest garnered from legitimate journalists like the Guardian’s Dan Roberts, who posted a request for an interview, a host of other generally conspiracy-minded individuals have rushed to the fore asking Guccifer 2.0 to continue his hacking work and expose more political misdeeds.
Of particular interest are of course Hillary’s unauthorized and potentially illegal email server from her tenure at the State Department, for which she is currently under FBI investigation, as well as any supposed involvement the DNC had in keeping candidate Bernie Sanders from becoming the Democratic nominee. Whether any such interference occurred at all is a matter of speculation at this point, but it highlights an interesting shift in the American zeitgeist.
A Distrust in the Media
For many people, distrust of official and mainstream media sources has become so ubiquitous that leakers, hackers, and whistleblowers, have begun to adopt the mantle some kind of ‘champions of the people’, particularly when seen as exposing information germane to public policy and politics, as in the case of controversial figures Marcel Lazar and Edward Snowden.
Determining the full truth of this situation is not an easy task, as Guccifer 2.0 claims he is not working with the Russians either. Those interested in the full transcript of e-mag Motherboard’s interview with Guccifer 2.0 can find it here.