Russian hackers attack DNC, steal Trump’s files

Russian government hackers broke into the servers of the Democratic National Committee and stole a massive trove of data, including all oppo...

Russian government hackers broke into the servers of the Democratic National Committee and stole a massive trove of data, including all opposition research into GOP presidential candidate Donald Trump and almost a year's worth of private e-mail and chat messages, according to committee officials and security experts who responded to the breach on Tuesday (June 14).

Researchers with Crowdstrike, the security firm DNC officials hired to investigate and contain the breach, determined the intrusions were carried out by two separate hacker groups that both worked for the Russian military intelligence organization. One, dubbed Cozy Bear, gained access last summer and has been monitoring committee members' e-mail and chat communications. The other is known as Fancy Bear and is believed to have broken into the network in late April. It was the latter intrusion that obtained the entire database of Trump opposition and later tipped off IT team members the network may have been breached.

The U.S. government, however, has not yet determined that the hackers who breached the server are connected to the Russian government.

According to Crowdstrike, Cozy Bear was the same group that in 2014 successfully infiltrated unclassified networks used by the White House, the State Department, and the Joint Chiefs of Staff. They reportedly have also hacked numerous corporations and businesses in the defense, energy, manufacturing and other industries. Fancy Bear has been in operation since 2000.

The networks of presidential candidate Hillary Clinton was also targeted by Russian spies, as were the computers of some Republican political action committees. But details on those cases were not available.

The hackers who penetrated the DNC network were expelled last weekend in a major computer cleanup campaign. No financial, donor or personal information appears to have been taken, leaving analysts to suspect the breach was a case of traditional espionage and not the work of criminal hackers.

CrowdStrike said analysts still aren't sure how the intruders gained access. Suspicions are being raised that they targeted DNC employees with spearphishing e-mails that appeared to come from known and trusted people that contained malicious links or attachments.Researchers with security firm Palo Alto Networks said that a Russian hacking group it calls Sofacy sent an unnamed US government agency spearphishing e-mails that appeared to come directly from the compromised account belonging to the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of another government.

The government is usually hesitant to publicly blame another government for a cyberattack and opts to usually remain silent, concerned of the geopolitical consequences and waiting for strong enough evidence that it might hold up in court.

It's not the first time that hackers have targeted major figures in a US presidential election. In 2008, both computer systems for both the Obama and McCain campaigns were reportedly victims of a sophisticated attack by a then unknown foreign entity. The two hacking groups identified by CrowdStrike didn't appear to work together or to coordinate their attacks.

Any U.S. election is of intense interest to overseas governments, and Trump's candidacy has especially raised his relationship with Russia throughout the campaign. He has at times spoken admiringly of Russian President Vladimir Putin, and some of his foreign policies have drawn praise in Moscow, despite the country's chilly relationship with the U.S.

The intrusions are an example of Russia’s interest in the U.S. political system and its desire to understand the policies, strengths and weaknesses of a potential future president.

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