Russian cyber-warriors and the U.S. election

The Democratic National Committee charges that Russian hackers penetrated its files on Trump opposition research.   Some people also speculate that Hillary Clinton’s e-mails have been hacked.

If Vladimir Putin—I emphasize if—is intervening in the U.S. election on behalf of Donald Trump, this could backfire not only against Trump, but in a dangerous way against Putin and Russia.

Vladimir PutinPutin and Trump have repeatedly praised each other.  Trump advocates better relations with Russia (which I agree with) while  Clinton has compared Putin to Hitler, which is the worst thing you can say about a Russian leader.

Paul Manafort, Trump’s main campaign adviser, managed the comeback of the pro-Russian Viktor Yanukovitch as President of Ukraine in 2010.   A Hillary Clinton protege, Victoria Nuland, helped engineer the overthrow of Yanukovich in 2014.  A leaked phone conversation in which she discussed strategy may well have come from Russian intelligence services.

So you have an American election aligned with factions in a conflict in a foreign country.  This is not good.

It is true that Russians, Chinese and other foreign hackers are attacking U.S. computer systems all the time, and that the CIA and NSA hack foreign systems.  It is true that U.S. intelligence agencies have been interfering in foreign elections for decades.  And it is true that foreign lobbyists actively try to influence American policy.

But this would be the first time a foreign intelligence service was caught intervening on behalf of a presidential candidate in an American national election.

We don’t know the full story yet.  Maybe this is less sinister than it seems.   But maybe Putin sees electing Trump as a way of crippling the United States without a nuclear strike.  Or maybe somebody is playing some sort of double game.  We’ll see how it plays out.


Russian government hackers broke into DNC servers, stole Trump oppo by Daniel Strauss for POLITICO.

Hackers Just Released What Appears to be Opposition Research on Trump by A.J. Vicens for Mother Jones.  Supposedly the full text of the Democrats’ Trump files.

Russia Is Reportedly Set to Release Clinton’s Intercepted Emails by Defense and Foreign Affairs, a news service of the International Strategic Studies Association, via OilPrice.  Significant if true.

Donald Trump Advisors Have Deep Ties to Ukrainian Oligarchs by Olga Zavarzina for HeatStreet.

The Russia Factor by Joseph Cannon on Cannonfire.  A lot of good background information here.

Photo montage via Salon.



Lambert Strether argued on the naked capitalism web log that there is no reason to think that independent hackers couldn’t have accessed the DNC files.

‘Guccifer 2.0’ Is Likely a Russian Government Attempt To Cover Up Their Own Hack Motherboard. This looks to overstate a speculative case. My understanding is their are a lot of independent black hat hackers who are very good.  There is no reason to think the DNC had super duper security and would therefore require a state actor or state-funded level actor to break in.  Lots of people would have had to have access to the records, and thus any identifiable user would have been a way in (and that’s before you get to possible sabotage, say by an angry ex-employee handing over a password).

Recall how the Sony hack, which experts later said was clearly due to the fact that Sony had absolutely God-awful security, was attributed to North Korea?  And look at how often credit card records are hacked, and those are almost certainly secured vastly better than you would expect the DNC to be.  Note also that the DNC uses the “state actor” excuse for being compromised.

Per Forbes (and note the author has no IT expertise):

The DNC’s hired cyber security firm explains that “it is extremely difficult for a civilian organization to protect itself from a skilled and determined state such as Russia.” It suspects that Russian hackers used “spearphishing,” or emails made to look like they came from someone trusted that contain links or attachments that give the hacker access to the computer when clicked.

Huh? My 88 year old mother gets messages like that, as I do all the time.  This is so common that I have trouble seeing this as a terribly sophisticated measure.

The argument here seems to rest on “media sophistication” as in Gawker and The Smoking Gun picked up the story.  Huh?  I could see Guccifer e-mailing his post to 20 or even 50 media outlets and having only 2 take it up.  I’m less able to evaluate the metadata claim, but since hacking is a crime in the US, would sending docs through a bunch of machines to muddy the trail be a prudent self-protection method?

Source: Links 6/17/16 | naked capitalism

I read So a Major Political Party Got Hacked by the Russian Government: Now What? by Jason Koebler for MotherBoard.   Maybe the Russian government isn’t taking sides.  Maybe their intelligence services hack everybody, and nobody talks about it.

What’s surprising to me is how little the candidates or the Washington press corps have had to say about these allegations, even if just to dismiss them.  All I’m sure of at this point is that I’m not sure what’s going on.  We’ll see how things play out.

Update  6/18/2016

Why Did the Media Race to Blame the Russian Govt for Hacking the DNC? by Adam Johnson of Fairness and Accuracy in Media (FAIR).

Update 6/20/2016

Hackers targeting Clinton aides struck across US by Michael Riley and Jordan Robertson for Bloomberg News.

Update 6/22/2016

More from “Lambert Strether”:

Readers, as you know I’m always skeptical of digital evidence, arguing that “digital evidence is not evidence” absent a chain of provenance to a known and trusted creator; digital material is too easy to fake.

And I’m old enough to remember — summarizing the chain of events very tendentiously — that evil genius Karl Rove settled the controversy over Bush’s (Vietnam War-evading non-)service in the TANG (Texas Air National Guard) by (1) feeding CBS news true information (2) in discreditable form, and then (3) arranging for it to be discredited (by an Atlanta blogger named Buckhead, in a post that blew up from nothing to utter dominance in a single news cycle, an amazing achievement).  So Rove used faked true evidence to impeach the story and saved Bush’s bacon.  (The CBS reporter, Dan Rather, was later fired, along with his reporting team.)

So if I look at Guccifer, I’m seeing steps (1) and (2), and I worry about step (3).  That is, if we suppose that the information on Clinton corruption is true, but the form is discreditable, and then imagine it is discredited, Clinton’s reputation would be laundered, at least until the impeachment hearings begin.  That is, a sponsor at the DNC or from the HillaryLand would take on Rove’s role in the TANG play from Rove’s playbook.

Too foily?  Perhaps.  Arguing against the TANG replay theory: (a) The Guccifer documents would take a lot of time and effort to create. But the Clintons have motive, a lot of money, and the ability to launder payments. (b) One release would be sufficient to bait the trap, so why then several? But who said you had to catch a fish in only one cast? (c) The DNC has neither confirmed nor denied the validity of the Guccifer releases, plural, so silence means consent.  But see point (b). (d)  The Clinton-dominated media have not gone full-throttle to denounce them, so they are suppressing the story.  But see again point (b).

[More arguments]: (a) The DNC and the Clintons have both shown themselves to be utter f*ckups technically on multiple occasions; it’s entirely plausible that they got massively hacked.  Or (b) the hackers, having failed in an attempt to get the DNC to buy back its own data in exchange for silence, have sent a message to others in the political world that they have also hacked, with this release.  It really is like a LeCarré novel, isn’t it?

Source: 2:00PM Water Cooler 6/21/2016 | naked capitalism

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