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Russian hackers ‘compromised’ top political and media figures with blackmail, cyber experts warn

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Hundreds of top government officials and media personalities might have been compromised in a blackmail scheme orchestrated by Russian hackers as part of the broader effort to undermine American democracy.

The cybersecurity firm Trend Micro warned the FBI and director of national intelligence in May and June 2015 that Kremlin hackers had targeted more than 2,300 influential political leaders, media members and their spouses in a sophisticated attack, reported Politico.

It’s not clear whether government investigators acted on the tip, but that firm’s chief cybersecurity officer at the time believes the attack was successfully carried out.

Tom Kellermann, the former Trend Micro official, notified U.S. law enforcement and intelligence officials two years ago that Russian-backed hackers were able to turn on microphones and cameras on their targets’ personal devices to gain sensitive information about their personal lives.

The cybersecurity expert believes that campaign had successfully compromised some influential political and media figures.

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“When you wonder why certain people act certain ways, you have to remember these people have been warned that their dirty laundry could be aired,” said Kellermann, now CEO of Strategic Cyber Ventures.

That operation’s success, along with election meddling and ongoing propaganda efforts, has emboldened the Kremlin to attempt additional active measures to subvert U.S. democracy, Kellermann said.

He pointed to the Shadow Brokers, a hacking group with apparent Kremlin ties that has been posting data stolen data from the NSA since last summer, and most recently in April.

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Emails hacked from the DNC and Hillary Clinton’s campaign chairman are blamed for softening voters enthusiasm for the Democratic candidate, and both Congress and law enforcement are investigating whether the Trump campaign coordinated with Russian agents to politicize the stolen data.

But the RNC was also hacked last year, although data stolen from state-level Republican officials and posted on DCLinks hasn’t gained as much attention as the DNC emails.

Some cybersecurity experts have speculated that Russian hackers stole additional RNC data but are holding onto it for blackmail purposes.

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“It would be naive [for Republicans] to think they weren’t targeted,” said Michael Buratowski, senior vice president at Fidelis Cybersecurity, which investigated the hack of the DNC.


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The real problem wasn’t the racism — it was the Trump taking ‘the Lord’s name in vain’ twice: supporter

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President Donald Trump was widely condemned after supporters at a campaign rally in West Virginia turned his racist "go back" message into a "Send Her Back" chant against one of a woman of color in Congress.

One Trump supporter in West Virginia also criticized the speech, but not for the racist targeting of Rep. Ilhan Omar.

State Senator Paul Hardesty, a Democrat, wrote to the White House to complain about Trump's use of the word "goddamn."

The letter was republished by the Montgomery-Herald.

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2020 Election

Here’s how Trump hopes to recreate his 2016 presidential win — and how Democrats can send him packing

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Writing for CNN on Saturday, election forecaster Harry Enten explained how President Donald Trump's recent, racist behavior lies in his desire to recreate the same electoral conditions that gave him a victory in 2016 in the presidential election next year.

"The Trump strategy is pretty simple: 1. Drive up the unfavorable ratings of his Democratic rival as he did in 2016 in order to compensate for his own low ratings. 2. Bank on an electoral college/popular vote split as he did in 2016. 3. Use a campaign of racial resentment to drive up turnout even more among groups favorable toward the President," wrote Enten. As he noted, Democrats have excellent odds to flip back Michigan and Pennsylvania, but they will have to work harder to win back any of the other states Trump flipped from the 2012 Obama camp — in particular Wisconsin, which was the closest state after those two.

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American, Italian and Russian blast off for ISS

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US, Italian and Russian astronauts blasted into space Saturday, headed for the International Space Station, in a launch coinciding with the 50th anniversary of the Apollo 11 Moon landing.

Alexander Skvortsov of the Russian space agency Roscosmos, NASA's Andrew Morgan and Luca Parmitano of the European Space Agency set off on a six-hour journey to the orbiting science lab from the Baikonur Cosmodrome in Kazakhstan at 1628 GMT.

A NASA TV commentator hailed a "textbook launch" minutes after blastoff in "sweltering" weather in Baikonur, where daytime temperatures reached 43 degrees Celsius on Saturday.

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