Campaign Hacking –

June, 2009:

The U.S. State Department said on Tuesday it had contacted the social networking service Twitter to urge it to delay a planned upgrade that would have cut daytime service to Iranians who are disputing their election.

Confirmation that the U.S. government had contacted Twitter came as the Obama administration sought to avoid suggestions it was meddling in Iran’s internal affairs as the Islamic Republic battled to control deadly street protests over the election result.

June 2012:

WASHINGTON — From his first months in office, President Obama secretly ordered increasingly sophisticated attacks on the computer systems that run Iran’s main nuclear enrichment facilities, significantly expanding America’s first sustained use of cyberweapons, according to participants in the program.

June 2013:

As Britain readies to host the G8 summit, the documents uncovered by NSA whistleblower Edward Snowden have revealed that back in 2009 US spies intercepted top-secret communications of then Russian president, Dmitry Medvedev, during his visit to London.

Oct 2013:

The furore over the scale of American mass surveillance revealed by Edward Snowden shifted to an incendiary new level on Wednesday evening when Angela Merkel of Germany called Barack Obama to demand explanations over reports that the US National Security Agency was monitoring her mobile phone.*

July 2014:

The Central Intelligence Agency improperly accessed computers used by the Senate committee investigating  the agency’s use of torture following the September 11, 2001 terrorist attacks, according to the CIA Inspector General Office.

Oct 2014:

In July of 2011, the website for the British tabloid The Sun announced that media mogul Rupert Murdoch had been found “dead in his garden.”

It was a lie, of course; a fake article planted by hackers who spent a week flitting in and out of the newspaper’s servers. The cyberattack was part of a campaign against Rupert Murdoch’s British media empire in the midst of the News of the World phone hacking scandal.

It was perpetrated, like so many of these things, by a group of anonymous online hackers. Except one of their leaders was an FBI informant

March 24, 2014:

The Hague, President Obama defended US surveillance programs as serving national security rather than commercial interests, in a wide-ranging meeting with his Chinese counterpart on the sidelines of a nuclear summit.

Hacking the Democrats

Is Russia hacking the Democrats? Is there anyone who isn’t?

More importantly: suppose the Russians were conclusively proven to be hacking the democrats: “So what,” shrugged Putin, “this is how it’s done. Isn’t that what Barack said when the NSA was caught hacking Angela?”

Let me try it from a different angle: In 2009, when Chelsea Manning dropped a ton of docs

my mad photoshop skillz are not for hire

my mad photoshop skillz.

that showed the US State Department a) had crappy computer security, and b) was being – to say the least – naughty and disrespectful in lots of places around the world – the Secretary of State had to make a bunch of embarrassing phone calls trying to walk back that damage. It was an important lesson in the value of good operational security, and making sure professional communications remained professional because they might not always remain private.

One of the things Manning’s leak taught us is that there are a bunch of incautious staffers at the State Department, who put really stupid things in email and don’t appear to realize that: stuff leaks.

Political offices seem to be among the leakiest places in the world – either someone’s hacking into your servers (to try to learn those deepest inner thoughts you’re leaking to the media) or the person in the cubicle next to yours is trying to toss information about your “secret” romance to a tabloid, hoping to cause an “involuntary vacancy” in the org-chart.

If you’ve watched HBO’s brilliant show, “VEEP” let me warn you: it’s closer to documentary than comedy. (Not that I want to go back to the “Hillary’s email” non-scandal, but: that’s pretty much how things work in the rarefied atmosphere of Versailles-on-the-Potomac)

The real story here, if there is one worth looking at, is the one that’s being deliberately obscured behind all the pointless fireworks about Russians. If there’s a real story, it’s that: political party bosses are sneaky people. Hey, you heard it here first.

I’ll add, if I may, that they don’t have a very good sense of e-mail security or professional communications and none of us would want to hire them if their job was to protect our personal information – because they are clearly incompetent at it. Oh, oops, that’s exactly the job they’re running for isn’t it? Hey, LOOK, SHINY RUSSIAN THING!!! OVER THERE!!!

Politics is the art of manipulation. Someone in that business complaining that someone else is trying to manipulate the political process through disclosing information … probably should find another career. Or they are manipulating you, in which case they are not your friends.

PS – I feel I should add a disclaimer: I’d bet you a stack of dollars against a donut that if the republicans have a computer system and are stupid enough to be swapping email through it across the internet, that it’s also been compromised. This is a non-partisan jab, in other words: I bet they’ve probably all got absolutely horrible security; it’s in the nature of the problem their system administrators have to deal with.

(* Obama’s reply was almost Clintonesque: “We are not nor will we monitor your phone.” Because, yeah, I told the guys to stop, 20 minutes ago.)


  1. chigau (違う) says

    That image should be on a t-shirt.
    or a hoody
    with a really deeeep hood

  2. chigau (違う) says

    more on topic
    I know a few people who are really computer savvy.
    They tend toward internets paranoia.
    Everyone else seems to have the rather charming notion that if the word “secure” appears somewhere, the site is actually secure.

  3. says

    I think a company I work for used that for a Tshirt.
    I love it when what I intend as a bit of sarcastic snark gets worn worldwide. We printed about a thousand!

    People see the word “secure” and sigh “aaaaaahhhhhh” and all their sphincter muscles relax. It’s an interesting effect but scientists classify it as placebo, or propaganda, depending on whether they are right wing scientists or left wing scientists.

  4. chigau (違う) says

    My first experiences with computers involved paper-tape and punch-cards.
    That shit was ‘secure’ because you needed to hack-saw the briefcase off the courier’s wrist.
    The Internets® changed everything.

  5. chigau (違う) says

    I was not actually permitted to touch anything but the keyboard.
    I am sooooo happy that the days of
    are done.

  6. Dunc says

    I am sooooo happy that the days of
    are done.

    Only because certain popular modern languages have decided that the way you deal with errors is to silently ignore them and keep running in the hope that it all works out somehow… (Yeah, I’m looking at you, JavaScript.)

  7. alkaloid says

    @MarcusRanum, #11

    What do you think a better web would look like? I realize that’s probably a book level question…

  8. Pierce R. Butler says

    From Alternet:

    … DNC Cybersecurity firm CrowdStrike posted on its blog that “two separate Russian intelligence-affiliated adversaries” had breached the DNC’s computer servers. The company implicated two groups, APT 28 (aka FANCY BEAR) and APT 29 (aka COZY BEAR), the former having infiltrated DNC servers as long ago as last summer, the latter in April this year. CrowdStrike co-founder and CTO Dmitri Alperovitch wrote that both groups are well-known to his company and exemplary at their job. “Our team considers them some of the best adversaries out of all the numerous nation-state, criminal and hacktivist/terrorist groups we encounter on a daily basis,” Alperovitch stated in the post. “Their tradecraft is superb, operational security second to none and the extensive usage of ‘living-off-the-land’ techniques enables them to easily bypass many security solutions they encounter.

    In a comprehensive Motherboard article, Vice’s Thomas Rid details the many clear indications that this was a Kremlin-backed attack. Documents show evidence of file modification by a user named “Феликс Эдмундович.” There are also hyperlinks in Cyrillic. The self-described Romanian hacker who claimed responsibility, Guccifer 2.0, initially refused to speak Romanian during an interview, then later committed errors a native speaker would be unlikely to make. National security-focused outlet Defense One points to a July 2015 report by cybersecurity firm FireEye noting APT 29 “cease operations on Russian holidays, and their work hours seem to align with the UTC +3 time zone, which contains cities such as Moscow and St. Petersburg. Buzzfeed News notes that WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange—who made clear the data spill, which hit on the eve of the DNC, was timed to maximize damage to Clinton—“had a TV show on Russian state television, criticized the Panama Papers for including Putin in their investigation, and took credit for delivering Ed Snowden to the Kremlin’s doorstep.” Even Trump’s own guy, Ret. Lt. Gen. Flynn, told Bloomberg News that Russia has “the full capability to do this.”

    [10 links not included]

    If Russia’s top superhackers can’t whip up a few scripts and tie down a few interns to smokescreen their time zone & holiday schedules, the rest of the world should rest easy. Except maybe those guarded by the likes of CrowdStrike.

  9. says

    Pierce R. Butler@#15:

    I always get worried when someone sees that a hacker used cyrillic and assumes therefore that they are russian. That’s incredibly weak sauce. And maybe the guy refused to speak Romanian because he’s from Texas and has a distinctive Texan accent.

    It’s very likely that there are useful traces that show that the attacker bounced from here through there and there through someplace else, but those are also easy to fake up.

    나는 엘리트 해커 입니다
    ZOMG! IT SAYS “I AM AN ELITE HACKER”! Marcus is apparently a Manchurian Blogger.

  10. Pierce R. Butler says

    Marcus is apparently a Manchurian Blogger.

    No way – I just saw somewhere irrefutable PROOF that Marcus (that sneaky bastard) works out of Kazakhstan!