Russian hackers targeted Arizona election system

The Washington Post reports: Hackers targeted voter registration systems in Illinois and Arizona, and the FBI alerted Arizona officials in June that Russians were behind the assault on the election system in that state.

The bureau described the threat as “credible” and significant, “an eight on a scale of one to 10,” Matt Roberts, a spokesman for Arizona Secretary of State Michele Reagan (R), said Monday. As a result, Reagan shut down the state’s voter registration system for nearly a week.

It turned out that the hackers had not compromised the state system or even any county system. They had, however, stolen the username and password of a single election official in Gila County.

Roberts said FBI investigators did not specify whether the hackers were criminals or employed by the Russian government. Bureau officials on Monday declined to comment, except to say that they routinely advise private industry of cyberthreats detected in investigations. [Continue reading…]

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FBI says foreign hackers penetrated state election systems

Michael Isikoff reports: The FBI has uncovered evidence that foreign hackers penetrated two state election databases in recent weeks, prompting the bureau to warn election officials across the country to take new steps to enhance the security of their computer systems, according to federal and state law enforcement officials.

The FBI warning, contained in a “flash” alert from the FBI’s Cyber Division, a copy of which was obtained by Yahoo News, comes amid heightened concerns among U.S. intelligence officials about the possibility of cyberintrusions, potentially by Russian state-sponsored hackers, aimed at disrupting the November elections.

Those concerns prompted Homeland Security Secretary Jeh Johnson to convene a conference call with state election officials on Aug. 15, in which he offered his department’s help to make state voting systems more secure, including providing federal cyber security experts to scan for vulnerabilities, according to a “readout” of the call released by the department. [Continue reading…]

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FBI investigates whether Russia hacked New York Times reporters

The Associated Press reports: The FBI is investigating cyber intrusions targeting reporters of the New York Times and is looking into whether Russian intelligence agencies are responsible for the acts, a US official said Tuesday.

The cyberattacks are believed to have targeted individual reporters, but investigators don’t believe the newspaper’s entire network was compromised, according to the official, who was briefed on the investigation but was not authorized to discuss the matter by name and spoke on condition of anonymity.

CNN first reported the FBI’s investigation.

It was not immediately clear how many reporters may have been affected, nor how many email accounts were targeted. [Continue reading…]

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Feds investigate Manafort firm as part of Ukraine probe

CNN reports: FBI and Justice Department prosecutors are conducting an investigation into possible US ties to alleged corruption of the former pro-Russian president of Ukraine, including the work of Paul Manafort’s firm, according to multiple US law enforcement officials.

The investigation is broad and is looking into whether US companies and the financial system were used to aid alleged corruption by the party of former president Viktor Yanukovych.

Manafort, who resigned as chairman of Donald Trump’s campaign Friday, has not been the focus of the probe, according to the law enforcement officials. The investigation is ongoing and prosecutors haven’t ruled anything out, the officials said.

The probe is also examining the work of other firms linked to the former Ukrainian government, including that of the Podesta Group, the lobbying and public relations company run by Tony Podesta, brother of Clinton campaign chairman John Podesta. [Continue reading…]

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U.S. considers sanctions against Russia in response to hacks of Democratic groups

The Wall Street Journal reports: U.S. officials are discussing whether to respond to computer breaches of Democratic Party organizations with economic sanctions against Russia, but they haven’t reached a decision about how to proceed, according to several people familiar with the matter.

Levying sanctions would require the White House to publicly accuse Russia, or Russian-backed hackers, of committing the breach and then leaking embarrassing information. The U.S. has frequently opted not to publicly release attribution for cyber-assaults, though Washington did openly accuse North Korea of carrying out an embarrassing breach of Sony Pictures Entertainment Inc. in 2014.

The Federal Bureau of Investigation and U.S. intelligence agencies have been studying the Democratic hacks, and several officials have signaled it was almost certainly carried out by Russian-affiliated hackers. Russia has denied any involvement, but several cybersecurity companies have also released reports tying the breach to Russian hackers.

On Thursday, House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D., Calif.) told reporters, regarding a breach of the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee, which spearheads the Democratic House campaigns: “I know for sure it is the Russians” and “we are assessing the damage.”

She added, “This is an electronic Watergate…The Russians broke in. Who did they give the information to? I don’t know. Who dumped it? I don’t know.” [Continue reading…]

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FBI said to have taken months to warn Democrats of suspected Russian role in hack

Reuters reports: The FBI did not tell the Democratic National Committee that U.S officials suspected it was the target of a Russian government-backed cyber attack when agents first contacted the party last fall, three people with knowledge of the discussions told Reuters.

And in months of follow-up conversations about the DNC’s network security, the FBI did not warn party officials that the attack was being investigated as Russian espionage, the sources said.

The lack of full disclosure by the FBI prevented DNC staffers from taking steps that could have reduced the number of confidential emails and documents stolen, one of the sources said. Instead, Russian hackers whom security experts believe are affiliated with the Russian government continued to have access to Democratic Party computers for months during a crucial phase in the U.S. presidential campaign, the source said.

As late as June, hackers had access to DNC systems and the network used by the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee, a group that raises money for Democratic candidates and shares an office with the DNC in Washington, people with knowledge of the cases have said. [Continue reading…]

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FBI probes hacking of another Democratic Party group

Reuters reports: The FBI is investigating a cyber attack against another U.S. Democratic Party group, which may be related to an earlier hack against the Democratic National Committee, four people familiar with the matter told Reuters.

The previously unreported incident at the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee, or DCCC, and its potential ties to Russian hackers are likely to heighten accusations, so far unproven, that Moscow is trying to meddle in the U.S. presidential election campaign to help Republican nominee Donald Trump.

The Kremlin denied involvement in the DCCC cyber-attack. Hacking of the party’s emails caused discord among Democrats at the party’s convention in Philadelphia to nominate Hillary Clinton as its presidential candidate.

The newly disclosed breach at the DCCC may have been intended to gather information about donors, rather than to steal money, the sources said on Thursday.

It was not clear what data was exposed, although donors typically submit a variety of personal information including names, email addresses and credit card details when making a contribution. It was also unclear if stolen information was used to hack into other systems.

The DCCC raises money for Democrats running for seats in the U.S. House of Representatives. The intrusion at the group could have begun as recently as June, two of the sources told Reuters. [Continue reading…]

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56 percent of Americans disapprove of FBI decision to exonerate Hillary Clinton

The Washington Post reports: A majority of Americans reject the FBI’s recommendation against charging Hillary Clinton with a crime for her State Department e-mail practices and say the issue raises concerns about how she might perform her presidential duties, according to a new Washington Post-ABC News poll.

Six in 10 voters say the outcome will have no impact on their vote this November, even as those who do largely say it discourages them from backing the presumptive Democratic nominee.

Last week’s decision by FBI Director James B. Comey resulted in the Justice Department’s decision that Clinton would not face criminal prosecution which could have derailed her presidential bid. But Comey’s sharp critique of Clinton’s email practices and systematic dismantling of her public defenses stocked critics with fresh ammunition for the general election campaign. [Continue reading…]

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Might the content of Hillary Clinton’s emails matter more than the location of her email server?

The Washington Post reports: FBI Director James B. Comey said Tuesday that his agency will not recommend criminal charges against Hillary Clinton for her use of a private email server as secretary of state but called Clinton and her staff “extremely careless” in handling sensitive material.

The announcement means that Clinton will not have to fear criminal, legal liability as her campaign moves forward, though Comey leveled sharp criticism at the past email practices of the presumptive Democratic presidential nominee and called into question many of the defenses she has raised in recent weeks. [Continue reading…]

Karoli Kuns, managing editor of Crooks and Liars, who says that in 2008, she was “one of the most ardent Hillary Clinton haters on the planet,” decided last year to read her emails during their “slow-drip release.” In January, using the pseudonym Anna Whitlock, she wrote: In those emails, I discovered a Hillary Clinton I didn’t even know existed.

I found a woman who cared about employees who lost loved ones. I found a woman who, without exception, took time to write notes of condolence and notes of congratulations, no matter how busy she was. I found a woman who could be a tough negotiator and firm in her expectations, but still had a moment to write a friend with encouragement in tough times. She worried over people she didn’t know, and she worried over those she did.

And everywhere she went, her concern for women and children was clearly the first and foremost thing on her mind.

In those emails, I also found a woman who seemed to understand power and how to use it wisely. A woman of formidable intellect who actually understood the nuances of a thing, and how to strike a tough bargain.

I read every single one of the emails released in August, and what I found was someone who actually gave a damn about the country, the Democratic party, and all of our futures. [Continue reading…]

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Trump is wrong that Muslims don’t do our part — I reported Omar Mateen to the FBI

Mohammed A. Malik writes: Since Sept. 11, I’ve thought the only way to answer Islamophobia was to be polite and kind; the best way to counter all the negativity people were seeing on TV about Islam was by showing them the opposite. I urged Omar to volunteer and help people in need – Muslim or otherwise (charity is a pillar of Islam). He agreed, but was always very worked up about this injustice.

Then, during the summer of 2014, something traumatic happened for our community. A boy from our local mosque, Moner Mohammad Abu-Salha, was 22 when he became the first American-born suicide bomber, driving a truck full of explosives into a government office in Syria. He’d traveled there and joined a group affiliated with al-Qaeda, the previous year. We had all known Moner; he was jovial and easygoing, the opposite of Omar. According to a posthumous video released that summer, he had clearly self-radicalized – and had also done so by listening to the lectures of Anwar al-Awlaki, the charismatic Yemen-based imam who helped radicalize several Muslims, including the Fort Hood shooter. Everyone in the area was shocked and upset. We hate violence and were horrified that one of our number could have killed so many. (After an earlier training mission to Syria, he’d tried to recruit a few Florida friends to the cause. They told the FBI about him.)

Immediately after Moner’s attack, news reports said that American officials didn’t know anything about him; I read that they were looking for people to give them some background. So I called the FBI and offered to tell investigators a bit about the young man. It wasn’t much – we hadn’t been close – but I’m an American Muslim, and I wanted to do my part. I didn’t want another act like that to happen. I didn’t want more innocent people to die. Agents asked me if there were any other local kids who might resort to violence in the name of Islam. No names sprang to mind.

After my talk with the FBI, I spoke to people in the Islamic community, including Omar, about Moner’s attack. I wondered how he could have radicalized. Both Omar and I attended the same mosque as Moner, and the imam never taught hate or radicalism. That’s when Omar told me he had been watching videos of Awlaki, too, which immediately raised red flags for me. He told me the videos were very powerful.

After speaking with Omar, I contacted the FBI again to let them know that Omar had been watching Awlaki’s tapes. He hadn’t committed any acts of violence and wasn’t planning any, as far as I knew. And I thought he probably wouldn’t, because he didn’t fit the profile: He already had a second wife and a son. But it was something agents should keep their eyes on. I never heard from them about Omar again, but apparently they did their job: They looked into him and, finding nothing to go on, they closed the file. [Continue reading…]

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U.S. officials say American Muslims repeatedly report extremist threats

Reuters reports: Muslim-Americans have repeatedly informed authorities of fellow Muslims they fear might be turning to extremism, law enforcement officials say, contrary to a claim by presumptive Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump this week.

“They don’t report them,” Trump said in a CNN interview on Monday, in the wake of the mass shooting at an Orlando nightclub of 49 people by an American Muslim who claimed allegiance to Islamic State. “For some reason, the Muslim community does not report people like this.”

But FBI director James Comey said, “They do not want people committing violence, either in their community or in the name of their faith, and so some of our most productive relationships are with people who see things and tell us things who happen to be Muslim.

“It’s at the heart of the FBI’s effectiveness to have good relationships with these folks,” Comey said at a press conference following the Orlando shootings. [Continue reading…]

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Terrorism trial divides Somalis in Minneapolis

The New York Times reports: The day after his oldest son was convicted of conspiring to join and kill for the Islamic State in Syria, Abdihamid Yusuf just wanted to go home and rest. But bills were stacking up, so on Saturday morning he and his wife visited the jail and then reopened Hooyo’s Kitchen, the small Somali restaurant where they serve plates of chicken, rice and bananas.

“We try to survive,” Mr. Yusuf said.

The trial of his son and two other young Somali-American men splintered families and opinions here in the country’s largest Somali community. Former friends testified against one another, describing how they had watched propaganda videos, bought fake passports and plotted their paths to Syria. Family members squabbled in the halls of the courthouse. Some said they had been threatened or shunned.

When the jury came back on Friday afternoon, Mr. Yusuf did not even get word in time to reach the courtroom to see his 22-year-old son, Mohamed Farah, and the two other defendants, Guled Omar, 21, and Abdirahman Daud, 22, declared guilty. A total of nine men — including another of Mr. Yusuf’s sons, Adnan — have been convicted in the case.

Federal prosecutors say the case shined a light on the persistent problem of terrorist recruiting here. Law enforcement authorities have said that more than 20 young men from Minnesota have left to join the Shabab militant group in Somalia and that more than 15 have tried or succeeded in leaving to join the Islamic State.

But it also opened wounds among families, and at the end of the trial, some in the community praised justice served, while others pointed to what they called another injustice. [Continue reading…]

The New York Times reports: The F.B.I. has significantly increased its use of stings in terrorism cases, employing agents and informants to pose as jihadists, bomb makers, gun dealers or online “friends” in hundreds of investigations into Americans suspected of supporting the Islamic State, records and interviews show.

Undercover operations, once seen as a last resort, are now used in about two of every three prosecutions involving people suspected of supporting the Islamic State, a sharp rise in the span of just two years, according to a New York Times analysis. Charges have been brought against nearly 90 Americans believed to be linked to the group.

The increase in the number of these secret operations, which put operatives in the middle of purported plots, has come with little public or congressional scrutiny, and the stings rely on F.B.I. guidelines that predate the rise of the Islamic State.

While F.B.I. officials say they are careful to avoid illegally entrapping suspects, their undercover operatives are far from bystanders. In recent investigations from Florida to California, agents have helped people suspected of being extremists acquire weapons, scope out bombing targets and find the best routes to Syria to join the Islamic State, records show.

Officials said in interviews that because social media had given extremists a cloak of anonymity, these undercover stings — online and in person — had become increasingly vital to gathering evidence and deterring possible attacks in the United States.

“We’re not going to wait for the person to mobilize on his own time line,” said Michael B. Steinbach, who leads the F.B.I.’s national security branch. He added that the F.B.I. could not afford to “just sit and wait knowing the individual is actively plotting.”

Counterterrorism officials said the Islamic State had inspired loyalists to strike quickly, even within days or weeks of their radicalization. Unlike wiretaps or searches, undercover operations do not require a judge to sign a warrant. They are overseen by F.B.I. supervisors and Justice Department prosecutors, and so can usually be started more quickly.

But defense lawyers, Muslim leaders and civil liberties advocates say that F.B.I. operatives coax suspects into saying and doing things that they might not otherwise do — the essence of entrapment. [Continue reading…]

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