Evidence that Russian hackers attacked the DNC

A report by Fox News experts raises questions about several coincidental high-profile hacks. "It's very interesting timing."

Rachel Kaplan ,

Hackers (illustrative)
Hackers (illustrative)

Circumstantial evidence links the chain of high-profile cyber attacks on members of the Democratic National Convention and the Clinton Foundation to Russian-backed hackers, according to a former Defense Department official.

Speaking to Fox News, former US Defense Intelligence Agency IT specialist Bob Gourley says the pattern is too clear to ignore.

"This clearly has all indications of a larger strategic intelligence gathering operation," Gourley said.

Fox News also spoke with CEO Tom Kellerman, of Strategic Cyber Ventures, who points out the sequence of events seem to be coordinated. "It's not surprising to me."

According to Kellerman, as of last summer, around 2,600 of Washington’s most influential people and their spouses were targeted by cyber-attacks from Russia in so-called “Operation Pawn Storm."

While the FBI is currently investigating the DNC breach, as well as that of the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee, it is unclear whether the investigation has yet extended to the apparent targeting of the Clinton Foundation.

Gourley, now a partner at the Cognitio firm, described to Fox News how hackers use "malvertising" to lure internet users to click on a link, unknowingly giving hackers access permission to their computers.

"People are deceived into clicking a link,” Gourley explained. “After that foothold is established, the malicious code, the real hackers get to work and grow out from there."

Russian President Vladimir Putin's government denies involvement. Kellerman, though, thinks the Russian intelligence tacitly backs cyber gangs to do work on its behalf.

"Within the former Soviet bloc, Russian-speaking hackers pay homage as cyber-militia members to the regime in Russia,” Kellerman said. “They act as proxies … when called upon to leverage their sophisticated tool sets and attack against victims in the US.”

Gourley noted the interesting timing of the NSA's announcement this week that it was going to auction off some of its best cyber spy tools - which are believed to have been compromised by Edward Snowden in 2013. Snowden is believed to still be residing in Russia.

"The only links are circumstantial," Gourley said.

“It's a very interesting timing that would occur right now after someone sat on that code for over three years," suggesting that they may have been used to crack the DNC and in other recent hacks.