Did Trump-Putin 2016 hack the DNC?

Donald Trump raised eyebrows during the GOP primary when he lavished praise on ‘leader’ Vladimir Putin:

Shirtless PutinDonald Trump praised Vladimir Putin and appeared to defend the autocratic Russian president when pressed about his alleged killing of journalists and political opponents critical of his rule.

One day after Putin called Trump a “bright and talented” and the “absolute leader of the presidential race,” the Republican presidential front-runner returned the compliments, hailing Putin as a “leader” and pointing to his high favorability numbers in Russia.

“He’s running his country and at least he’s a leader, unlike what we have in this country,” Trump said when asked by “Morning Joe” Republican host Joe Scarborough about Putin’s alleged killing of journalists and political opponents.

“I think our country does plenty of killing also, Joe, so you know. There’s a lot of stupidity going on in the world right now, a lot of killing, a lot of stupidity,” he said.

Trump noted that Putin had called him smart, which Trump said is “always good, especially when the person heads up Russia.”

Trump also suggested that as president he would herald a new era of relations between the U.S. and Russia, which have plummeted to levels not seen since the Cold War, experts say.

Trump pointed to his experience as a dealmaker and said that while some see Russia as a problem for the United States — most in the Republican Party have described Russia as the U.S.’s top global adversary — Trump said one “could also see Russia being a really big asset to our country.”

“A lot of good things could happen with Russia if we get along with Russia and if they respect us,” Trump said. “Putin doesn’t respect our president.”

trump-putin_website-800x430This effusive praise of Russia’s autocratic leader led Ohio Governor John Kasick to launch a ‘Trump-Putin 2016’ website, and to this ad, Trump/Putin 2016, “Make Tyranny Great Again”(video).

Maybe John Kasich was actually on to something. Trump’s autocratic buddy and role model, Vladimir Putin, has had his Russian intelligence agencies spying on the Democratic National Committee to find out what the Democrats have on Trump in their opposition research files. (This is what the Watergate break-in was all about, before there was the Internet.) Russian government hackers penetrated DNC, stole opposition research on Trump:

Russian government hackers penetrated the computer network of the Democratic National Committee and gained access to the entire database of opposition research on GOP presidential candidate Donald Trump, according to committee officials and security experts who responded to the breach.

The intruders so thoroughly compromised the DNC’s system that they also were able to read all email and chat traffic, said DNC officials and the security experts.

The intrusion into the DNC was one of several targeting American political organizations. The networks of presidential candidates Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump were also targeted by Russian spies, as were the computers of some Republican political action committees, U.S. officials said. But details on those cases were not available.

* * *

Some of the hackers had access to the DNC network for about a year, but all were expelled over the past weekend in a major computer cleanup campaign, the committee officials and experts said.

The DNC said that no financial, donor or personal information appears to have been accessed or taken, suggesting that the breach was traditional espionage, not the work of criminal hackers.

* * *

Russian President Vladimir Putin has spoken favorably about Trump, who has called for better relations with Russia and expressed skepticism about NATO.

So the burning question on everyone’s mind today  is whether Vladimir Putin has been sharing the Democratic Party’s opposition research with the campaign of his good buddy, Donald Trump. Can you really say it is beyond the realm of possibility, even if it is improbable? Inquiring minds want to know.

The firm CrowdStrike identified two separate hacker groups, both working for the Russian government, that had infiltrated the network, said Dmitri Alperovitch, CrowdStrike co-founder and chief technology officer. The firm had analyzed other breaches by both groups over the past two years.

One group, which CrowdStrike had dubbed Cozy Bear, had gained access last summer and was monitoring the DNC’s email and chat communications, Alperovitch said.

The other, which the firm had named Fancy Bear, broke into the network in late April and targeted the opposition research files. It was this breach that set off the alarm. The hackers stole two files, Henry said. And they had access to the computers of the entire research staff — an average of about several dozen on any given day.

The computers contained research going back years on Trump. “It’s a huge job” to dig into the dealings of somebody who has never run for office before, Dacey said.

CrowdStrike is not sure how the hackers got in. The firm suspects they may have targeted DNC employees with “spearphishing” emails. These are communications that appear legitimate — often made to look like they came from a colleague or someone trusted — but that contain links or attachments that when clicked on deploy malicious software that enables a hacker to gain access to a computer. “But we don’t have hard evidence,” Alperovitch said.

The two groups did not appear to be working together, Alperovitch said. Fancy Bear is believed to work for the GRU, or Russia’s military intelligence service, he said. CrowdStrike is less sure of whom Cozy Bear works for but thinks it might be the Federal Security Service, or FSB, the country’s powerful security agency, which was once headed by Putin.

* * *

The two crews have “superb operational tradecraft,” he said. They often use previously unknown software bugs — known as “zero-day” vulnerabilities — to compromise applications. In the DNC’s case, the hackers constantly switched tactics to maintain a stealthy presence inside the network and used built-in Windows tools so that they didn’t have to resort to malicious code that might trigger alerts. “They flew under the radar,” Alperovitch said.

The two groups have hacked government agencies, tech companies, defense contractors, energy and manufacturing firms, and universities in the United States, Canada and Europe as well as in Asia, he said.

Cozy Bear, for instance, compromised the unclassified email systems of the White House, State Department and Joint Chiefs of Staff in 2014, Alperovitch said.

“This is a sophisticated foreign intelligence service with a lot of time, a lot of resources, and is interested in targeting the U.S. political system,” Henry said. He said the DNC was not engaged in a fair fight. “You’ve got ordinary citizens who are doing hand-to-hand combat with trained military officers,” he said. “And that’s an untenable situation.”

* * *

CrowdStrike is continuing the forensic investigation, said Sussmann, the DNC lawyer. “But at this time, it appears that no financial information or sensitive employee, donor or voter information was accessed by the Russian attackers,” he said.

The firm has installed special software on every computer and server in the network to detect any efforts by the Russian cyberspies to break in again. “When they get kicked out of the system,” Henry predicted, “they’re going to try to come back in.”

To paraphrase Senator Howard Baker, ““What did Donald Trump know, and when did he know it?”

3 responses to “Did Trump-Putin 2016 hack the DNC?

  1. Is it true that Putin has the main speaker slot on the third night of the Republican convention?

  2. Sanda Schuldmann

    TRUMP would not hack himself!