Russian Hackers’ New Target: a Vulnerable Democratic Senator

Source: Daily Beast | July 26, 2018 | Andrew Desiderio, Kevin Poulsen

Sen. Claire McCaskill is a top target for Republicans looking to grow their slim Senate majority in 2018. Turns out, Russia’s “Fancy Bear” hackers are going after her staff, too.

The Russian intelligence agency behind the 2016 election cyberattacks targeted Sen. Claire McCaskill as she began her 2018 re-election campaign in earnest, a Daily Beast forensic analysis reveals. That makes the Missouri Democrat the first identified target of the Kremlin’s 2018 election interference.

McCaskill, who has been highly critical of Russia over the years, is widely considered to be among the most vulnerable Senate Democrats facing re-election this year as Republicans hope to hold their slim majority in the Senate. In 2016, President Donald Trump defeated Hillary Clinton by almost 20 points in the senator’s home state of Missouri.

There’s no evidence to suggest that this particular attack was successful.  Asked about the hack attempt by Russia’s GRU intelligence agency, McCaskill told The Daily Beast on Thursday that she wasn’t yet prepared to discuss it.

“I’m not going to speak of it right now,” she said. “I think we’ll have something on it next week. I’m not going to speak about it right now. I can’t confirm or do anything about it right now.”

In August 2017, around the time of the hack attempt, Trump traveled to Missouri and chided McCaskill, telling the crowd to “vote her out of office.” Just this last week, however, Trump said, on Twitter, that he feared Russians would intervene in the 2018 midterm elections on behalf of Democrats.

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The Daily Beast identified McCaskill as a target while investigating statements made by Microsoft VP Tom Burt last week in an appearance at the Aspen Security Forum. Burton discussed the Virginia injunction, and told the audience that it allowed Microsoft to thwart a phishing campaign against three midterm election candidates, who he declined to name.

“We did discover that a fake Microsoft domain had been established as the landing page for phishing attacks, and we saw metadata that suggested those phishing attacks were being directed at three candidates who are all standing for elections in the midterm elections,” said Burt, Microsoft’s corporate vice president for customer security and trust. “We took down that domain and working with the government actually were able to avoid anybody being infected by that particular attack.”

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