The US deputy attorney general, Rod Rosenstein, has indicted 12 Russian spies for hacking and leaking the emails of senior Democrats during the 2016 presidential election campaign, days before President Donald Trump’s summit with Russian President Vladimir Putin.
In what represents his first charges against Russian government official for interfering in American politics, special counsel Robert Mueller has now laid out a 29-page indictment about how Russians schemed to break into key Democratic email accounts months before polls opened for the 2016 elections. Among those targeted were Clinton campaign chairman John Podesta, the Democratic National Committee (DNC) and the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee (DCCC), ABC news reports.
The indictment points at a malware, dubbed X-agent, which the hackers used to infect computers at the DCCC and gain access into the DNC’s network. The malware enabled attackers to take screenshots of staffers’ work computers and were able to ascertain what they were typing, activities beyond tracking their emails. Then Russians then allegedly used a network of computer server – using bitcoin – to hide their tracks, the indictment alleged, before trying to pass their attacks as the work of lone Romanian hacker Guccifer 2.0.
The document also describes how a group of longstanding Russian spies worked out of an anonymous classical building in central Moscow to systemically hack the DNC in ‘a textbook deception operation’ involving fake identities, hidden digital currency payments and spear phishing, a Guardian report describes.
More than anything, the indictment is a reminder of the immediate need to bolster cyber defenses of the US political and electoral infrastructure. This year, the US Congress sanctioned an additional $380 million funding for states to improve their cybersecurity posture ahead of the looming US midterm elections in November.
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