In the se­quel to Hil­lary’s e-mail scan­dal, Rus­sian hack­ers go after the Clin­ton Foun­da­tion

A newly dis­cov­ered hack may lead to pub­lic data dumps “The end re­sult is a weaker pres­i­dent once elected”

Bloomberg Businessweek (Asia) - - CONTENTS - Michael Riley and Jor­dan Robert­son, with Carol Mat­lack

Be­fore the Demo­cratic Na­tional Com­mit­tee dis­closed a ma­jor com­puter breach in mid-June, U.S. of­fi­cials had in­formed both po­lit­i­cal par­ties and the pres­i­den­tial cam­paigns of Hil­lary Clin­ton, Bernie San­ders, and Don­ald Trump that hack­ers were at­tempt­ing to pen­e­trate their com­put­ers, ac­cord­ing to a per­son fa­mil­iar with the gov­ern­ment in­ves­ti­ga­tion. In fact, says an­other per­son fa­mil­iar with the probe, from Oc­to­ber 2015 through mid-May, the hack­ers tar­geted at least 4,000 in­di­vid­u­als, many in­volved in pres­i­den­tial politics, in­clud­ing party aides, ad­vis­ers, think tanks, and lawyers.

The gov­ern­ment found the hack­ers, sus­pected by in­ves­ti­ga­tors to have links to the Rus­sian state se­cu­rity ap­pa­ra­tus, also suc­ceeded in breach­ing sys­tems be­long­ing to the Clin­ton Foun­da­tion, as re­cently as mid-June, three peo­ple fa­mil­iar with the mat­ter say. Foun­da­tion of­fi­cials say the or­ga­ni­za­tion has no ev­i­dence its sys­tems were com­pro­mised and hasn’t been no­ti­fied by law en­force­ment.

The hacks set the stage for what could be a Wash­ing­ton re­make of the pub­lic sham­ing that shook Sony in 2014, when thou­sands of in­ter­nal e-mails filled with ca­sual gos­sip about world lead­ers and Hol­ly­wood stars were made pub­lic. A hacker (or group of hack­ers) call­ing him­self Guc­cifer 2.0 has al­ready posted doc­u­ments pur­port­edly from the DNC, in­clud­ing what he said was a list of donors who had made large con­tri­bu­tions to the Clin­ton Foun­da­tion. Guc­cifer 2.0 pub­licly threat­ened to re­lease thou­sands of in­ter­nal memos and other doc­u­ments.

A Clin­ton cam­paign spokesman, Glen Caplin, says he can’t com­ment on gov­ern­ment brief­ings about cy­ber­se­cu­rity but that the cam­paign had no ev­i­dence that its sys­tems were com­pro­mised. “What ap­pears ev­i­dent is that the Rus­sian groups re­spon­si­ble for

the DNC hack are in­tent on at­tempt­ing to in­flu­ence the out­come of this elec­tion,” he says. The DNC said in a state­ment that it be­lieves the leaks are “part of a dis­in­for­ma­tion cam­paign by the Rus­sians.” Dmitry Peskov, a spokesman for Pres­i­dent Vladimir Putin, de­nies the Rus­sian gov­ern­ment was in­volved.

Trump spokes­woman Hope Hicks didn’t re­spond to e-mails seek­ing com­ment; nei­ther did the Repub­li­can Na­tional Com­mit­tee. A San­ders spokesman, Michael Briggs, says he wasn’t aware of the warn­ings.

The U.S. Se­cret Ser­vice, the FBI, and the Na­tional Se­cu­rity Agency are all in­volved in the in­ves­ti­ga­tion; none of the agen­cies have made state­ments about the in­quiry. The FBI has kept its in­ves­ti­ga­tion sep­a­rate from the re­view of Clin­ton’s use of a pri­vate e-mail server while she was sec­re­tary of state, says a per­son briefed on the mat­ter.

Rus­sia uses in­for­ma­tion op­er­a­tions to ad­vance for­eign pol­icy. The au­di­ence for sen­si­tive in­ter­nal doc­u­ments and dam­ag­ing in­for­ma­tion wouldn’t be U.S. vot­ers, says Bren­dan Con­lon, who for­merly led an NSA hack­ing unit. “Why would Rus­sia go to this trou­ble? Sim­ple answer: Be­cause it met their for­eign pol­icy ob­jec­tives, to weaken the U.S. in the eyes of our al­lies and ad­ver­saries,” says Con­lon, now chief ex­ec­u­tive of­fi­cer of Vahna, a cy­ber­se­cu­rity com­pany in Wash­ing­ton. “The end re­sult is a weaker pres­i­dent once elected.”

Rus­sia has been ac­cused of sim­i­lar hacks in Europe. The Ger­man in­tel­li­gence agency has con­cluded that Rus­sia was re­spon­si­ble for a 2015 hack that forced the shut­down of the Bun­destag’s com­puter sys­tems. Se­cu­rity soft­ware maker Trend Mi­cro said in May that Rus­sian hack­ers had been try­ing to steal data from Chan­cel­lor An­gela Merkel’s Chris­tian Demo­cratic Union party, and that they also tried to hack the Dutch Safety Board—to ob­tain an ad­vance copy of a re­port that tied the down­ing of a Malaysian air­craft over Ukraine in July 2014 to a Rus­sian­made Buk sur­face-to-air mis­sile.

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