Not unlike the purported size of his hands, Donald Trump has a rather small file of publicly known information compared to those who have been in the political spotlight for many years. That could be one of the motivating factors behind the recent hacking of the Democratic National Committee. While the size of Trump’s hands has little to do with any serious conversation, it does remind us that foreign nation states are highly motivated to collect the private information of powerful people.
The DNC revealed recently that two groups had gained access to their information; one (dubbed Cozy Bear) had been monitoring the committee’s emails and chats for as long as a year. The other, “Fancy Bear”, hacked into the DNC in April to get opposition research files and was able to gain access to all of the DNC’s research staff computers.
The DNC said that no financial, donor or personal information appears to have been accessed or taken, suggesting that the breach was traditional espionage, not the work of criminal hackers. They suspect hackers used spearphishing emails to gain access. The DNC, who became aware of a possible beach after noticing “unusual network activity”, immediately contacted CrowdStrike to shut down the intrusion. CrowdStrike attributes the hack to Russian government hackers (although an individual calling himself Guccifer 2.0 has claimed responsibility and even released supposed documents). The two groups have hacked government agencies, tech companies, defense contractors, energy and manufacturing firms, and universities in the United States, Canada and Europe as well as in Asia. Cozy Bear, for instance, compromised the unclassified email systems of the White House, State Department and Joint Chiefs of Staff in 2014.
The Why Behind the DNC Hack
Naturally, other countries have a keen interest in the U.S. presidential election because they will have to deal with the particular policies, strengths and weaknesses of a potential future president. The emails and chats they’ve been able to observe probably contained very informative strategy and analysis.
As for the information on Trump, which was largely news stories, court documents and video clips that anyone could gather, what makes it so valuable is due to the fact that he has one of the shortest political resumes of any modern presidential candidate. The DNC has spent the better part of a year gathering research going back years on Trump. Rather than spend their own time aggregating data on trump, the hackers simply stole from the DNC.
Foreign governments would want to know, for example, about Trump’s foreign investments in order to understand how he would deal with countries where he has those investments should he be elected. They may also want to know about his style of negotiating.
As the Presidential Election nears and the rhetoric ramps up, expect to see additional breaches of political data. The DNC Hack is a perfect example of politically motivated cyber espionage that has nothing to do with financial gain. Has your organization identified and protected its critical information assets? Failing to do so might allow your risk to get out of hand.
John Sileo is an an award-winning author and keynote speaker on identity theft, internet privacy, fraud training & technology defense. John specializes in making security entertaining, so that it works. John is CEO of The Sileo Group, whose clients include the Pentagon, Visa, Homeland Security & Pfizer. John’s body of work includes appearances on 60 Minutes, Rachael Ray, Anderson Cooper & Fox Business. Contact him directly on 800.258.8076.