On Sunday, Hillary Clinton’s campaign manager Robby Mook told CNN that “experts are telling us that Russian state actors broke in to the DNC, took all these emails and now are leaking them out through these Web sites…It’s troubling that some experts are now telling us that this was done by the Russians for the purpose of helping Donald Trump.”
According to the Washington Post, some cyber security experts back up the claim.
The forensic firm CrowdStrike investigated the breach of the DNC firewalls and blamed two competing Russian intelligence hacker groups. The firm said that the emails published by Wikileaks on Friday appeared to have been handed over to the anti-secrecy group by Russian government operatives.
If this is true, said Thomas Rid of Kings College London, “This tactic was a game-changer.”
“Exfiltrating documents from political organizations is a legitimate form of intelligence work,” Rid explained. “The U.S. and European countries do it as well. But digitally exfiltrating and then publishing possibly manipulated documents disguised as freewheeling hacktivisim is crossing a big red line and setting a dangerous precedent: an authoritarian country directly yet covertly trying to sabotage an American election.”
In the days during and after the Republican National Convention last week, questions were raised regarding changes made by the Trump campaign to the Republican Party platform that appeared to be favorable to Russian strongman Vladimir Putin.
Trump surrogates and campaign spokesmen have attempted to quash rumors that the Republican nominee is quietly in support of Putin’s regime. The hacker or group of hackers that broke into the DNC servers goes by the name Guccifer 2 and represents itself as a private individual living in Romania.
However, Rich Barger — chief information officer cyber intelligence software firm ThreatConnect — told the Post, “We’ve been looking at this very closely from both the technical and non-technical spheres. Based on our analysis, we strongly feel Guccifer 2 is linked to a Russian information operations campaign and is not the independent Romanian hacker that he claims to be.”
Rid said that it’s difficult to know, however, whether the hacking operations are being carried out on official Russian government orders.
“(W)hat we don’t know,” he said, “is whether this is a top-down order or not.”
Kremlin officials strenuously deny any involvement in the attacks. If the Russian government is trying to affect the outcome of a U.S. election, say intelligence experts, the implications are highly troubling.