Russian hackers evolve to serve the Kremlin

The Wall Street Journal reports: With the hacking of Hillary Clinton’s campaign and the Democratic National Committee, U.S. officials say Russia has unleashed a strengthened cyberwarfare weapon to sow uncertainty about the U.S. democratic process.

In doing so, Russia has transformed state-sponsored hackers known as Fancy Bear and Cozy Bear from internet spies to political tools with the power to target the country’s adversaries, according to U.S. officials and cybersecurity experts.

The attacks are the harder side of parallel campaigns in the Kremlin’s English-language media, which broadcast negative news about Western institutions and alliances and focus on issues that demonstrate or stoke instability in the West, such as Brexit. Moscow seeks particularly to weaken the North Atlantic Treaty Organization, which has expanded its defense against Russia.

“The underlying philosophy of a lot of these attacks is about establishing information as a weapon,” said Alexander Klimburg, a cyber expert at the Hague Center for Strategic Studies. “Hacking for them is literally about controlling information.”

President Vladimir Putin denies Russian involvement in the hacking, but in a way that telegraphs glee about the potential chaos being sown in the U.S. democratic process.

“Everyone is talking about who did it, but is it so important who did it?” Mr. Putin said. “What is important is the content of this information.”

Former Central Intelligence Agency Director Michael Hayden said the Kremlin doesn’t appear to be trying to influence the election’s outcome, noting Russian involvement has provided fodder for both Republicans and Democrats. “They are not trying to pick a winner,” he said Tuesday at a cybersecurity conference in Washington. Rather, Russia is likely unleashing the emails “to mess with our heads.”

Pro-Kremlin commentators in Russia have seized on the DNC leaks to cast doubt on the American democratic process and argue that Washington has no right to criticize Moscow. They have said the hacked DNC emails, which showed party officials working to undermine primary runner-up Bernie Sanders, prove Americans are hypocritical when they malign Mr. Putin’s authoritarianism. [Continue reading…]

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