New investigation reveals Russia’s worldwide digital hit list — beyond the US election
The hackers who interfered with the U.S. presidential election targeted a variety of targets worldwide, according to a newly revealed digital hit list.
The Associated Press obtained the list — which includes U.S. defense contractors, Russian opposition figures and Ukrainian officers — collected by the cybersecurity firm Secureworks.
The list shows detailed evidence of how closely the Russian government worked with hackers to further the Kremlin’s interests.
“(The data is) a master list of individuals whom Russia would like to spy on, embarrass, discredit or silence,” said Keir Giles, director of the Conflict Studies Research Center in Cambridge, England.
Hackers targeted at least 545 accounts in Ukraine, where Russia-backed separatists are fighting a grinding war, including the president and his son and the opposition parliamentarian who helped uncover payments allegedly paid to Trump campaign chairman Paul Manafort.
Within Russia, Fancy Bear focused on government opponents such as Pussy Riot’s Maria Alekhina and journalists critical of the Kremlin.
“It’s simply hard to see how any other country would be particularly interested in their activities,” said Michael Kofman, an expert on Russian military affairs at the Woodrow Wilson International Center in Washington, who was on the list of targets. “If you’re not Russia, hacking these people is a colossal waste of time.”
Most of the identified targets were in the United States, Ukraine, Russia, Georgia and Syria, according to the AP analysis.
“Everything on this list fits,” said Vasily Gatov, a Russian media analyst who was also targeted.
Secureworks found the data after the hacking group Fancy Bear accidentally exposed part of its phishing operation online, revealing a direct line between hackers and the leaks of private emails related to the Clinton campaign.
Hackers worked with Russia for years, according to the hit list, which showed they tried to break into 4,700 Gmail accounts — including the pope’s representatives in Kiev and the punk band Pussy Riot in Moscow.
Fancy Bear tried to hack into nearly 600 inboxes of top U.S. diplomatic and security officials, including then-Secretary of State John Kerry, former Secretary of State Colin Powell, then-NATO Supreme Commander Gen. Philip Breedlove, and one of his predecessors, U.S. Army Gen. Wesley Clark.
They also tried hacking employees of defense contractors such as Boeing, Raytheon and Lockheed Martin, as well as Russia watchers and, especially, Democrats.
More than 130 Democratic workers, campaign staffers and supporters were targeted, including Hillary Clinton’s campaign chairman, John Podesta, and other members of her inner circle.
The AP also found a few Republican targets besides Powell, whose private emails were successfully breached and posted online.
“They got two years of email,” Powell told AP. “I always suspected some Russian connection.”
Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov said Russian involvement was “unfounded,” but cybersecurity experts said the evidence was indisputable.
“This is the Kremlin and the general staff,” said Andras Racz, a specialist in Russian security policy at Pazmany Peter Catholic University in Hungary. “I have no doubts.”