Twelve Russian intelligence agents have been indicted for hacking the DNC - World Truth

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Friday, July 13, 2018

Twelve Russian intelligence agents have been indicted for hacking the DNC

A grand jury has delivered indictments against 12 officers of the Russian military in connection with 2016 hacks of the Democratic National Committee, as part of an investigation by special counsel Robert Mueller. Many of the defendants are identified as agents of Russia’s GRU intelligence agency. The indictments allege an ongoing attempt to compromise election infrastructure — including attacks on state boards of election, secretaries of state, and election software providers. However, the indictment does not allege that the campaign ultimately affected vote tallies.

The attacks were largely carried out through spear-phishing attacks using malware called “X-agent” to collect passwords through keylogging and screenshots. (X-Agent and related tools like X-Tunnel have long been associated with GRU-sponsored hacking campaigns.) The group also purchased servers and other infrastructure using bitcoin in an effort to maintain anonymity, leading to an additional money-laundering charge. By June 2016, the group allegedly had access to 33 computers at the DNC.

The hack was part of a broader influence campaign, which culminated in the publication of emails stolen from DNC servers in the opening days of the Democratic Convention. Many of the documents were released through WikiLeaks and other outlets in an effort to launder the source of the data. Both DC Leaks and Guccifer 2.0 are specifically named in the indictment as fronts for Russian GRU agents. The indictment also alleges that Guccifer 2.0 was contacted by the campaign staff for a Republican Congressional candidate, and responded by releasing further documents through private channels. The specific campaign is not named.

The broader Russian influence campaign included significant operations on Facebook, including purchasing ads in violation of federal election law. In February, the special counsel indicted a number of Russian agents involved in the social media operation, including many employees of the infamous Internet Research Agency.

All 12 defendants reside in Russia, and it is unlikely any of them will be tried in US court. Nonetheless, the indictment is expected to have significant political consequences.

At a press conference announcing the indictments, Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein emphasized the importance of national unity in the face of foreign interference. “There will always be adversaries who seek to exacerbate our divisions,” Rosenstein said. “So long as we are united in our commitment to the values enshrined in our constitution, they will not succeed. Partisan warfare fueled by modern technology does not fully reflect the grace, dignity and unity of the American people.”

President Trump has consistently questioned Russian involvement in the DNC hacks, suggesting during one debate that the culprit could have been “someone sitting in their bed that weighs 400 pounds.” On numerous occasions, he has either ignored or actively disputed an Intelligence Community Assessment that officially attributed the DNC hack to agents of the Russian government. Trump has also avoided a direct interview with Mueller on the matter, despite ongoing requests from the special counsel.