Russia’s premier military intelligence agency was responsible for the hacking of Clinton campaign chairman John Podesta, according to a private cyber security company.
Analysts at SecureWorks discovered that Russian hacker-collective Fancy Bear, which is believed to have ties to Russia’s GRU military intelligence agency, is responsible for hacking Podesta’s email account. Podesta is one of several other notable victims of Fancy Bear’s widespread hacking campaign, which included former NATO commander Gen. Philip Breedlove, former Secretary of State Colin Powell and the Democratic National Committee (DNC), according to Thursday reports from Esquire magazine and Vice’s Motherboard blog.
Podesta was caught by hackers using one of the oldest tricks in the book: spear phishing, a simple hacker tactic which involves sending a potential victim an email with a link that either prompts the user to enter their log-in information or downloads malware to their computer designed to steal passwords and account information. Fancy Bear sent one such fake email to Podesta in March, which included a link that redirected him to a fake Google log-in page. After Podesta entered his password, Fancy Bear gained access to his entire inbox.
The DNC became the first victim of the hacking campaign July 22. WikiLeaks published emails from DNC Chair Debbie Wasserman Schultz showing apparent bias in favor of Democratic presidential nominee Hillary Clinton over former Democratic presidential candidate Sen. Bernie Sanders. WikiLeaks began publishing tranches of Podesta’s most damning emails Oct. 7. The same day, the Office of the Director of National Intelligence released a statement saying that it was “confident” Russia was behind the recent hacks of the DNC and other political figures.
SecureWorks discovered Fancy Bear’s involvement in the hack by examining the short-code links sent to users. The hackers used Bitly, a popular link-shortening service to shorten the links sent to their potential victims. SecureWorks found that Fancy Bear hackers set their Bitly accounts to public, allowing analysts to trace 9,000 of the links back to 4,000 of the Gmail accounts targeted.
WikiLeaks released a total of 14 Podesta email batches as of writing and promised Thursday that it had a yet-to-be released “surprise in store” for Clinton’s running mate Sen. Tim Kaine and interim DNC Chair Donna Brazile.
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