The FBI suspects the Russian government could be behind the hack of the Democratic National Committee after about 20,000 emails from the political organisation were leaked late last week.
But as one expert tells Business Insider, it will be “essentially impossible” to make a direct connection between the hackers and the Russian government.
“Yeah, I mean, it’s essentially impossible, 100% given the advanced tactics these guys can deploy,” Will Ackerly, a former cloud security architect at the National Security Agency and co-founder of the data security company Virtru, said. “It is relatively straightforward to design a mis-attribution system, where it looks like the attack is coming from somewhere else.”
He said, however, that the leak has all the fingerprints of a Russian attack. And, he added, “You can reject definitively [the hack] is from a non-nation state actor.”
“I’d have a hard time believing that a sophisticated security company would be behind the attack based on its signature,” he said. “Let alone a small, non-government funded group of individuals.”
If the Russian government was involved in the hack, “we have much, much, much bigger problems to worry about,” he said.
“That means the entire party has the Manchurian candidate,” he said, referencing the late 1950s political thriller.
The timing of the release — just three days before the start of the Democratic National Convention, although the hack occurred earlier this year — has thrown into question the motives of the hackers. The emails showed the DNC used the party apparatus to tip the scales in favour of Hillary Clinton while mocking her challenger, Bernie Sanders, and his supporters. The fallout led to DNC Chair Debbie Wasserman Schultz announcing Sunday she would be resigning from her post at the conclusion of this week’s convention in Philadelphia — where some supporters of Sanders have been reinvigorated with vitriol toward Clinton and the party after the email release, published to WikiLeaks.
Russian officials called the claim that the Kremlin was involved in the hack “absurd” on Tuesday and flatly denied any involvement.
“We are again seeing these maniacal attempts to exploit the Russian theme in the US election campaign,” Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov told reporters, according to Reuters. “This is not breaking new ground, this is an old trick which is being played again. This is not good for our bilateral relations, but we understand that we simply have to get through this unpleasant period.”
On Monday, the FBI told The Daily Beast it suspects Russian government hackers breached the organisation’s networks and posted the emails in an attempt to help Donald Trump, who is seen by many observers as the preferred candidate of Russian President Vladimir Putin. Trump has displayed admiration for the Russian leader during the course of his campaign.
“The release of emails just as the Democratic National Convention is getting underway this week has the hallmarks of a Russian active measures campaign,” David Shedd, a former director of the Defence Intelligence Agency, told The Daily Beast, adding that additional leaks are likely.
Cybersecurity officials who spoke to BuzzFeed echoed that sentiment, saying those behind the attack could be releasing additional emails over the next few months in hopes of creating the most possible damage for Clinton’s campaign.
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