Hackers Have Tried This Before
WASHINGTON –Russian government hackers broke into the Democratic National Committee database and managed to gain access to opposition research files on presumptive GOP presidential nominee Donald Trump, the DNC confirmed Tuesday.
Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz, who chairs the DNC, said that when they discovered the breach, they reached out to the cyber firm CrowdStrike immediately.
“The security of our system is critical to our operation and to the confidence of the campaigns and state parties we work with,” Congresswoan. Wasserman Schultz said. “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.”
The sophisticated Russian groups, which have previously targeted the White House, the State Department and the Joint Chiefs of Staff, specifically concentrated on the DNC’s research units and had access to all of the committee’s internal communications, including chat and email applications.
The DNC’s opposition research unit, which sources indicate was specifically targeted by the hackers, is tasked with compiling unflattering information on Republican opponents — particularly presumptive Republican nominee Donald Trump — to potentially use against them in the course of a political campaign.
Opposition research could include everything from old press clippings to footage of candidates on the stump recorded by party operatives to obscure legal and tax documents collected through public records requests. Much of this sensitive information may never come out during a campaign, and could be of use to the Russian government in seeking to embarrass or apply pressure to targets.
Trump spokeswoman Hope Hicks directed questions to the United States Secret Service.
The DNC called in computer security company CrowdStrike during the first week of May to investigate the suspected hack. CrowdStrike found that two Russian intelligence agencies – which may not have been working together – breached the network in summer 2015 and April 2016, respectively.
Shawn Henry, the president of CrowdStrike, said that foreign espionage operations commonly seek information about political campaigns.
“We know with certainty that foreign intelligence services are constantly interested in political processes. They’re interested in strategies, they’re interested in foreign policy,” he said. “The DNC and other NGOs have been targeted over the years by this very, very sophisticated group with a high degree of capability and some very sophisticated technology.”
After responding to the breach, CrowdStrike quickly saw the telltale signatures of two Russian adversaries it codenamed COZY BEAR and FANCY BEAR. The group believes the two agencies were not working together on the hack, but rather competing, as Russian intelligence agencies often do.
At the moment no other agencies are reporting being hacked including the Republican National Committee. The Russian government has not yet comment on the hacking revelations and it could be sometime before that they do.