Russian government hackers breach Republican National Committee

Sources say Russian government hackers breached the computer systems of the Republican National Committee last week.

Ben Ariel ,

Hacker (illustration)
Hacker (illustration)

Russian government hackers breached the computer systems of the Republican National Committee last week, around the time a Russia-linked criminal group unleashed a massive ransomware attack, two people familiar with the matter told Bloomberg on Tuesday.

According to the sources, the government hackers were part of a group known as APT 29 or Cozy Bear.

That same group has been tied to Russia’s foreign intelligence service and has previously been accused of breaching the Democratic National Committee in 2016 and of carrying out a supply-chain cyberattack involving SolarWinds Corp., which infiltrated nine US government agencies and was disclosed in December.

It remains unknown what data the hackers viewed or stole, if anything. An RNC spokesman on Tuesday denied its systems were breached.

A spokesperson for the Russian Embassy in Washington didn’t immediately respond to a request for comment.

The hackers are suspected to have attacked the RNC through Fremont, California-based Synnex, the people said, asking not to be identified as they weren’t authorized to discuss confidential matters.

In a press release, Synnex said “it is aware of a few instances where outside actors have attempted to gain access, through Synnex, to customer applications within the Microsoft cloud environment.”

The previous attack in mid-December was initially blamed on hackers backed by a “foreign government” who stole information from the US Treasury Department and the Commerce Department’s National Telecommunications and Information Administration (NTIA).

Subsequently it was revealed that the attack also targeted the US Department of Homeland Security.

Later, reports said that Microsoft was hacked as part of the suspected Russian campaign, with sources saying the hackers took advantage of the widespread use of software from SolarWinds Corp. Microsoft’s own products were then used to further the attacks on others.

In early January, the office of the US Director of National Intelligence acknowledged that Russia was “likely” behind the string of hacks.