UPDATE – 6/20, 3:21 p.m. EST: On Friday, the Pentagon announced that 138 vulnerability points in Defense Department general access websites were exposed by “white hat hackers” who participated in a project launched earlier in 2016, called “Hack the Pentagon”.
Over 1,400 Americans with computer coding skills took part in the effort, including high school students, who were rewarded sums between $100 and $15,000 for successfully breaking into Pentagon webpages.
The project cost the government a total of $150,000, including payouts.
“It’s not a small sum”, said Defense Secretary Ash Carter. “But if we had gone through the normal process of hiring an outside firm to do a security audit and vulnerability assessment, which is what we usually do, it would have cost us more than $1 million.”
The Washington Post reported Tuesday that the Democratic National Committee’s (DNC) computer network has been compromised by Russian government hackers since summer of 2015, allowing the Eurasian superpower to access employee communications and opposition research on presumptive GOP presidential nominee Donald Trump.
The first hack is believed to have occurred just under a year ago, when computer programmers working for the Russian Federal Security Service installed malicious software on DNC computers through “spearphishing” emails sent to Committee workers, enabling the agency to intercept DNC emails and chat logs between employees.
The second infiltration of DNC’s system was perpetrated by Russia’s Main Intelligence Directorate (GRU) in April, exposing documents that contained information on Trump, including his foreign business interests.
All malware was removed over the weekend by CrowdStrike, Inc., a cyber-security firm, and no personal or financial information has been reported stolen.
“The purpose of such intelligence gathering is to understand the target’s proclivities,” said former NSA and CIA councilor Robert Dietz. “Trump’s foreign investments, for example, would be relevant to understanding how he would deal with countries where he had those investments . . . In short, this sort of intelligence could be used by Russia . . . to indicate where it can get away with foreign adventurism.”
Russia’s Federal Security Service hacked White House, State Department and Joint Chiefs of Staff computer networks in 2014, allowing the KGB off-shoot only access to unclassified information.
Likewise, GDU has been hacking government and business computers networks all over the world for the past decade.
According to CrowdStrike co-founder Dmitri Alperovitch, Russia has stepped up its spying efforts on the West “a thousand-fold”, over the past two years, after the virtual annexation of Crimea lead to costly sanctions which have significantly effected the national economy. Evermore isolated now on the world-stage, both the practice of intellectual theft and espionage are necessary for Russia to compete and engage with Western superpowers.
U.S. officials also told the Washington Post that Russian spy agencies attempted to infiltrate both the Trump and Clinton campaign networks, although it is still not know whether or not they have been successful.
[Washington Post] [Reuters] [globalsecurity.org] [britannica.com] [Photo courtesy makeuseof.com]