One day after a number of documents supposedly stolen during a hack on the Democratic National Committee servers were posted online, a cybersecurity expert says it is a clear act of “cyberwar.”
“It’s really strange for a Russian intelligence agency,” Dave Aitel, an ex-NSA research scientist who’s now CEO of Immunity, told Tech Insider. “That’s straight up cyberwar.”
At least two different groups associated with the Russian government were found inside the networks of the DNC over the past year, reading emails, chats, and downloading private documents, as was reported on Tuesday.
The hack, which was investigated by the FBI and cybersecurity firm Crowdstrike, was linked to Russia through a lengthy technical analysis, which was detailed on the firm’s blog. Aitel called the analysis “pretty dead on.”
The FBI did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
But one day later, a supposed “lone wolf” hacker calling himself “Guccifer 2.0” created a new WordPress blog and published stolen documents — including a 200-plus page opposition research file on Donald Trump — in a supposed effort to obfuscate a link to Russian intelligence.
“There’s a possibility that this was a mistake,” Aitel said. “The crime of trying to influence a Democratic election has massive blowback potential.”
In Aitel’s view, the evidence is solid that Russian intelligence was indeed inside the DNC’s machines, and he doesn’t necessarily blame them — since foreign governments can likely find valuable insight into the next administration. But he and other cybersecurity experts aren’t sure why documents have been released in such a way.
“Why would you do the release? It makes no sense at all,” he said. “If you release data that just makes Hillary angry and has no actual effect on the election you are in a position where you have done something potentially disastrous for your country.”
He added: “This is not what mature intelligence agencies do.”
But there is another theory being discussed: The full release of opposition research on Trump actually helps the candidate, since it removes Clinton’s ability to use it strategically, in a piecemeal way throughout the election cycle.
How does this help Trump, you ask? It’s a full dump. Trump gets lots of bad news today, but DNC loses ability to use contents strategically.
— Pwn All The Things (@pwnallthethings) June 15, 2016
And Trump, for his part, is claiming that the DNC hacked itself.