Monday, June 20, 2016

RUSSIA - Political Hacking

"Inside Russian hacking of Democrats' opposition research on Trump" PBS NewsHour 6/14/2016


SUMMARY:  For nearly a year, Russian hackers have been penetrating Democratic National Committee computers and stealing, among other things, research compiled on presumptive Republican nominee Donald Trump.  Gwen Ifill talks to Dmitri Alperovitch of CrowdStrike and Sasha Issenberg of Bloomberg Politics for more on the stunning sophistication of these breaches and the reasons behind them.

GWEN IFILL (NewsHour):  The Democratic National Committee said today Russian government hackers have penetrated its computer network.  Breaches by two separate groups allowed hackers to access e-mails, internal chats, and opposition research Democrats have compiled on presumptive Republican nominee Donald Trump.

Hackers may have had access for a year.  The Washington Post reported that computer networks for Hillary Clinton and Trump were also targeted.

We get some insight on how this happened and why from Dmitri Alperovitch.  He is the co- founder of CrowdStrike, the intelligence company that investigated the breach for the DNC.  And Sasha Issenberg, a contributor for Bloomberg Politics and author of the book “The Victory Lab: The Secret Science of Winning Campaigns.

Dmitri Alperovitch, how significant an intrusion was this into the Democratic Party's file?

DMITRI ALPEROVITCH, Crowdstrike:  This was a pretty scary intrusion.

And, in fact, there were two intrusions in place here.  Two separate Russian government-affiliated actors, we believe, that are part of the intelligence services of Russia infiltrated the network first in the summer of last year and were able to get access of the communications service at the DNC, essentially giving them the ability to monitor the e-mail traffic that was going through their servers, and a completely separate actor that penetrated that network in April of this year and went straight for the research department of the Democratic National Committee, specifically looking for the opposition files on the Republican presidential candidate, Donald Trump.

GWEN IFILL:  How did the DNC find out?  How were they alerted to this intrusion, and how were you?

DMITRI ALPEROVITCH:  Well, in early May, they discovered that there was something off on the network that was highly suspicious.  And they called us in.

GWEN IFILL:  Their internal IT people?

DMITRI ALPEROVITCH:  Their internal IT people determined that something may be off.  They didn't yet know if it was a breach. They asked us (Crowdstrike) to come in and evaluate.

And, within 24 hours, we were able to ascertain with our software deployed on all their machines there was in fact two breaches from two separate Russian intelligence services that were inside that network.

GWEN IFILL:  Sasha Issenberg, you wrote a book about how dependent campaigns have become on data and the things needed to support that amount of data, specifically about the 2008 Obama campaign.  So, in this case, what kinds of things exist in this — in these records?

SASHA ISSENBERG, Contributor, Bloomberg Politics:  Yes, you know, parties at this point are largely hubs of information.

They gather intelligence on the electorate, on — data on individual voters that they use the make tactical decisions, and then they're kind of a permanent research operation, especially at times like this, where there are open primaries within a party, and you don't know who the nominee is going to be.

And the DNC basically says to the Clinton campaign or Sanders or O'Malley campaigns, we will spend the year building resources for you that we can hand to you when you're the nominee.  In this case, a dossier on Donald Trump, probably the DNC has more information in its files on its servers than any other organization that has been researching Donald Trump for an hour — for a year — pardon me — and not just Trump, but his circle, his advisers, his staffers.

And so a foreign intelligence organization that wants to understand who those people are, the relationships they have, potential points of leverage or influence would probably find that the DNC has more of it sitting around than anyone else.

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