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Russiagate

Updated on January 23, 2017
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With Donald Trump’s surprise victory, accusations surface of Russia rigging the election in his favor. This came in the form of exposing information damaging to Hillary Clinton to swing votes towards Trump.

Prior to the Election Day, the email account of John Podesta was hacked, and the information was passed to WikiLeaks. As of January 2017, the info from Podesta’s inbox is still on display on the site. The DNC email systems were also hacked, and that information was also passed to WikiLeaks, which posted it on their site.

In one of his final speeches as President, Barack Obama announced sanctions against Russia for the hacking. On December 29, 2016, the FBI and DHS released a joint report of their findings of the Russia hack, however, both agencies lacked full confidence that the Russian government was behind it.

There are two different theories on how John Podesta's e-mail account was hacked. According to Julian Assange of WikiLeaks, John Podesta's password was 'passw0rd', which is highly discouraged by many in the Information Technology security because it could have been easily guessed. John Podesta's email and info could have been compromised by anybody from a 14-year old to a 400-pound man who sits in bed all day. Another theory is that Podesta fell victim of a phishing scam. One way or the other, the emails got to WikiLeaks and the hack also fueled the fake news dilemma.

Hannity's Assange Interview FULL

On January 2, 2017, popular conservative TV and Radio host Sean Hannity went to London and had a rare in-depth interview with Julian Assange. He has been quiet on the source of the DNC & Podesta e-mails, but he has said that both sources did not come from the Russian Government. Hannity did ask Assange if he had talked to Vladimir Putin and Donald Trump, and he said no.

During that interview, Hannity also asked Assange about a theory that a disgruntled Democrat who knew of the unfair treatment of Bernie Sanders within the DNC handed a copy of all the emails to Craig Murray at American University, who then sent them to WikiLeaks. Assange did not directly say no to that, and details of how that hack happened are not yet known. However, that theory is a possibility. It would also depend on the kind of access that individual had and what kind of privileges within the system he had, or if he had a backdoor. The person Murray supposedly got the info from claimed it was leaked, and not hacked.

Mr. Potato Head! Back doors are not secrets!
Mr. Potato Head! Back doors are not secrets!

In the 1983 blockbuster movie WarGames, Matthew Broderick played a computer nerd who found a backdoor to NORAD while believing he was accessing a computer video game company. While attempting to play unreleased games, he got himself in deep trouble. But before the dramatics of the movie start, he asks some of his friends about how he could get into the system, and was told that most systems come with a backdoor or an easy way for a system builder and/or administrator to easily get in the system and bypass any levels of security.

Craig Murray
Craig Murray | Source

If the Murray scenario is correct, it would take time to download all of the emails; how much time would depend on the speed of the computer downloading the files. There are quite a few ways a large amount of copied e-mails could be taken from the DNC computers and then sent to WikiLeaks.

When it comes to logging in and out of a system, I’ll refer to another movie here. A good example of a keeping a system log is the 2001 movie Hannibal. Yes, Hannibal was a rather brutal movie and I won't get into the very interesting details of the flick. In the movie, Dr. Lecter is in Florence, Italy under an alias, and is questioned by Inspector Pazzi, who knows him under the alias and not Dr. Lecter. Pazzi later accesses the FBI ViCAP database on his home PC to find out that Dr. Lecter is on the most wanted list and is in his town, so he looks for information on a reward.

Later, Clarice Starling (played by the lovely Julianne Moore this time) sees the log info of Pazzi’s multiple viewings of Lecter’s file in the ViCAP. She later calls him from Washington DC to warn Pazzi not to pursue the reward, but he ignores her. For those who saw the movie, we see that Pazzi fails rather badly at capturing Lecter.

Is it true that Russia did hack the DNC?

Now, is it true that the Russian Government hacked into the DNC servers as the report suggests? Yes, they have, according to Dmitri Alperovitch, the CTO of CrowdStrike, a highly-recognized cyber-security company, back in June 2016. According to Alperovitch, two Russian intelligence agencies, the GRU & the FSB had gotten into the system, but Alperovitch states that both agencies did not know of each other’s presence in the system. Here is an interview with those claims on PBS NewsHour with the late Gwen Ifill:

Dmitri Alperovitch, CTO of CrowdStrike
Dmitri Alperovitch, CTO of CrowdStrike | Source

In that video, Sasha Issenberg of Bloomberg does mention the disgruntled Bernie Sanders supporter breaching the DNC servers in early 2016, helping out my so-called Murray scenario.

DHS (Department of Homeland Security) made a statement in October 2016 of findings of Russian hacks of Democratic websites and even in the White House website and files. However, in that statement, the DHS also stated that it would be highly difficult for the Russian government to hack into voting systems. The report also states that voting machines are not connected to the internet and mentions the involvement of Guccifer 2.0, a notable Romanian hacker who would later take credit for the DNC hack.

A week before the FBI and DHS released their report on December 29th, Dmitri Alperovitch of CrowdStrike once again appeared on PBS Newshour asserting that the GRU & FSB did breach the DNC systems. He also mentioned that the GRU had successfully implanted malware on Android devices that tracked movements of Ukrainian artillery units. Notable professor of King's College London Thomas Rid also commented on the subject too agreeing with Alperovitch. Judy Woodruff asked about of CrowdStrike's work with the DNC post-election in the video.

The day of the FBI and DHS joint report was released, Larry King discussed it on his show PoliticKing which is on Russia Today America. For much of the show, King interviewed John McAfee, founder and developer of McAfee anti-virus software. McAfee, 71, has been outspoken about how the United States Government handles cyber-security (You can really hear the pen clicks on this one!).

McAfee's opinion on whether Russia hacked the DNC is the same as Assange's: but also stated the possibility of China doing the hack with the Russian alphabet inside the code. Plot twist! He also emphasized that China hacks the U.S., Iran hacks the U.S., the United States hacks Russia, Iran, China and other countries, Basically, everybody hacks everybody. President Donald Trump asserted that in his press conference on January 11th. It is even possible that someone from an ISIS-controlled area could hack into the DNS systems, let alone John Podesta’s email.

Russia keyboard layout
Russia keyboard layout | Source

Donald Trump's surprise victory has caused quite a stir among his detractors. Including quite a lot of celebrities and comedians looking to leave the country or even the planet (as Cher promised). The DHS & FBI joint report has said that Russia was behind the process of hacking the DNC, but could not officially say they're 100% responsible. The report also states that there were other numerous attempts to breach the DNC servers but besides Fancy Bear and Cozy Bear, there is little information about the other attempts.

The report has seen some heavy criticism by many IT elites, such as Assange and McAfee. And they are not the only two yelling foul over the report. Quite a few IT experts and me (currently an IT student) also agree.

Is the U.S. Government unhappy that Putin had in interest in Trump? Are they trying to play that card?

It remains to be seen how Trump will handle country cyber-security during his administration.

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