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Tag: Russia

FBI Warns Private Sector about Potential Russian Cyber Attacks in U.S. As Tensions over Ukraine Heighten

By Steve Neavling

The FBI is warning the private sector in the U.S. about potential state-sponsored cyber attacks from Russia as the country prepares for a possible invasion of Ukraine. 

The warning was issued in a Liaison Information Report dated Feb. 20 and obtained by Newsweek.

“The FBI Cyber Division, in coordination with the FBI’s Office of Private Sector (OPS), prepared this LIR to inform the private sector about the threat of Russian state-sponsored advanced persistent threat (APT) cyber activities, while tensions with Russia are heightened,” the report stated.

“The FBI is engaging in efforts to support the U.S. response and to secure the Homeland from any Russian actions; historically, Russian state-sponsored APT cyber activities increase when tensions are high with Russia,” the report added.

The report points to the weakening security situation on Ukraine’s border. 

“Due to the increased threat of Russian military action, the security situation in Ukraine could deteriorate with little notice,” the report said. “The United States, along with its Allies and partners, has underscored its readiness to impose significant costs on Russia if it takes further military action against Ukraine, potentially further increasing the volume/severity of Russian APT cyber activities.”

According to the report, Russian APT actors “have used spear phishing and brute force cyber network attacks (CNA), while exploiting known vulnerabilities against accounts and networks with weak security.”

“Russian APT actors have targeted a variety of U.S. and international critical infrastructure, including entities in the Defense Industrial Base, Healthcare and Public Health, Energy, Telecommunications, and Government Facilities Sectors,” the report stated. “Finally, Russian malign influence actors have and continue to use social media accounts, overt and covert media connections, and message amplification to articulate narratives designed to exclude or isolate groups from one another.”

Mueller Considered Charging Trump Jr. And Roger Stone But Found a Lack of Evidence

Former FBI Director Robert Mueller, via FBI.

By Steve Neavling

Special counsel Robert Mueller considered charging Donald Trump Jr. and GOP operative Roger Stone with crimes but ultimately declined, according to a newly unredacted version of the Mueller report. 

The new version of the report, obtained by BuzzFeed News, reveals new details about the report that produced multiple convictions against Trump associates.

Mueller opted not to charge Trump Jr. with a misdemeanor count of computer intrusion for using a password obtained from Wikileaks to access a website called “putintrump.org” before the 2016 election.  

Mueller also declined to charge Stone with crimes in connection to the hack of the Democratic National Committee. 

According to the report, Mueller said there wasn’t enough evidence to charge Trump Jr., who was able to gain access to the website. 

“Given that Trump Jr. did not himself initiate the plan to access the website or guess the password, the absence of evidence that his acts caused any damage to the website or obtained valuable information, the technical nature of the violation, and the minimal punishment that a misdemeanor conviction could be expected to carry in these circumstances, the Office decided against pursuing charges,” the report states. 

The evidence against Stone, who was pardoned by Trump after being found guilt of lying to congressional investigators and tampering with evidence, “was not sufficient” to warrant charges, according to the report. 

“The absence of evidence as to knowledge, in short, would both hinder the government’s ability to prove conspiracy liability and also potentially provide a First Amendment defense,” the report states. “Therefore, the Office did not seek charges against WikiLeaks, Assange, or Stone for participating in the computer-intrusion conspiracy.”

FBI Agent Who Worked Near Russia Has Symptoms Consistent with Havana Syndrome

By Steve Neavling

A former FBI agent said he’s suffering from a mysterious and often debilitating affliction known as Havana Syndrome. 

Now the bureau, which had not previously acknowledged that some of its current or former employees could have the syndrome, is offering access to medical care for agents who have symptoms, NBC News reports.

The former agent was originally denied medical treatment for the syndrome, according to an email from an FBI official that said the bureau “is not authorized to give any medical advice and there are not any medical programs in place for current and/or retired employees” for potential brain injury symptoms. 

The agent said he had suffered from migraines and dizziness about a decade after he served overseas in a country near Russia. 

When NBC News asked the bureau about the email, the FBI said it was “one part of a larger exchange taken out of context and does no reflect the FBI’s commitment to supporting its personnel, both current and former.”

The Havana Syndrome dates back to late 2016, when dozens of American officials and family members who were in Cuba or China reported symptoms consistent with the Havana Syndrome. They include headaches, nausea, vertigo, memory loss, bloody noses, and hearing bizarre sounds. 

Some authorities believe the syndrome is the result of weaponized microwave radiation, while others say it may be from pesticides or a psychological illness. 

The FBI’s statements added that the bureau “does not have the authority to provide direct medical treatment, we now have a process to guide current and former employees to the interagency medical treatment and evaluation options that are available to them.”

“Anomalous Health Incidents is a top priority for the FBI, as the protection, health and well-being of our employees and colleagues across the federal government is paramount.”

Durham’s Trump-Russia Probe Secures Indictment Against Clinton Attorney

U.S. Attorney John Durham. Photo: DOJ

By Steve Neavling

A prominent cybersecurity attorney who represented Hillary Clinton during the 2016 presidential election has been charged with lying to the FBI. 

A grand jury indicted Michael Sussmann Thursday as part of Justice Department special counsel John Durham’s examination of the origins of the federal investigation into ties between the Trump campaign and Russia, The Washington Post reports.

According to prosecutors, Sussmann lied to the FBI in September 2016 by falsely saying he was not representing Clinton’s campaign. At the time, Sussmann told the FBI that cybersecurity researchers were concerned about possible ties between Russia and the Trump organization. 

The false statement “deprived the FBI of information that might have permitted it to more fully assess and uncover the origins of the relevant data and technical analysis, including the identities and motivations of Sussmann’s clients,” the indictment states. 

Sussmann’s lawyers called the prosecution “baseless and politically-inspired.”

“The Special Counsel appears to be using this indictment to advance a conspiracy theory he has chosen not to actually charge,” attorneys Sean Berkowitz and Michael Bosworth said in a statement. “This case represents the opposite of everything the Department of Justice is supposed to stand for.”

Sussmann is the second person to be charged as part of Durham’s two-and-a-half-year investigation.  

FBI Investigates Suspected Russian Hacking of Government Networks

By Steve Neavling

The FBI is investigating hackers who breached the Treasury and Commerce departments, along with other government agencies, gaining access to their email systems. 

Russian government hackers appear to be behind the intrusion, The Washington Post reports, citing people familiar with the matter.

The hackers, whose nickname is Cozy Bear or APT29, also were behind the hacking of the State Department and White House email servers during the Obama administration. 

Authorities are still trying to determine the nature and extent of the breach. It’s not yet clear whether classified material was obtained. 

The campaign may have begun as early as spring. 

Federal law enforcement declined to comment on the intrusion over the weekend. 

Russia, Iran Trying to Influence Presidential Election with Voter Information, FBI Warns

FBI Director Christopher Wray, via FBI.

By Steve Neavling

The FBI has warned that Russia and Iran have obtained voter information and are using it to sow division and chaos and undermine confidence in the upcoming election. 

The FBI Director Christopher Wray and National Security Director John Radcliffe said the two countries are trying to influence the presidential election. 

Iran has used the information to target American voters with emails demanding they vote for President Trump, the officials said, adding that there’s no evidence either country managed to alter election results or registration information.

“We are not going to tolerate foreign interference in our elections or any criminal activity that threatens the sanctity of your vote or undermines public confidence in the outcome of the election,” Wray said during a news conference with Ratcliffe, The Washington Post reports. “When we see indications of foreign interference or federal election crimes, we’re going to aggressively investigate and work with our partners to quickly take appropriate action.”

Radcliffe said the voter data “can be used by foreign actors to attempt to communicate false information to registered voters that they hope will cause confusion, sow chaos and undermine your confidence in American democracy.”

U.S. Charges Six Russian Intelligence Officers with Hacking

GRU Emblem

By Steve Neavling

The Justice Department on Monday indicted six Russian intelligence agency officers in connection with what prosecutors called some of the world’s most destructive cyber attacks.

The attacks targeted the Ukrainian power grid in 2016, the French elections in 2017 and the winter Olympics in 2018. 

A grand jury in Pittsburgh returned the seven-count indictment on Thursday, which includes charges for conspiracy, wire fraud, computer fraud, and aggravated identity theft. 

Those charged are officers within Unit 74455 of the Russian Main Intelligence Directorate, known as the GRU, which is a military intelligence agency.

“No country has weaponized its cyber capabilities as maliciously or irresponsibly as Russia, wantonly causing unprecedented damage to pursue small tactical advantages and to satisfy fits of spite,” Assistant Attorney General for National Security John C. Demers said in a statement.  “Today the department has charged these Russian officers with conducting the most disruptive and destructive series of computer attacks ever attributed to a single group, including by unleashing the NotPetya malware.  No nation will recapture greatness while behaving in this way.”

U.S. Attorney Scott W. Brady for the Western District of Pennsylvania said the charges are part of a two-year investigation.

“For more than two years we have worked tirelessly to expose these Russian GRU Officers who engaged in a global campaign of hacking, disruption and destabilization, representing the most destructive and costly cyber-attacks in history,” Brady said.  “The crimes committed by Russian government officials were against real victims who suffered real harm.  We have an obligation to hold accountable those who commit crimes – no matter where they reside and no matter for whom they work – in order to seek justice on behalf of these victims.” 

Comey Defends FBI’s Trump-Russia Investigation, Takes Aim at Barr

Former FBI James Comey in previous testimony, via FBI.

By Steve Neavling

Former FBI Director James Comey on Wednesday defended the bureau’s investigation into links between the Trump campaign and Russia, saying it was “essential,” as Republicans dismissed the probe as politically motivated.

Testifying before the Senate Judiciary Committee, which is investigating the Trump-Russia probe, Comey also took aim at Attorney General William Barr’s assertion that the investigation was unwarranted. 

Asked about Barr’s criticism that the FBI had sufficient evidence to launch an investigation, Comey responded that he had “no idea what on earth” he meant, The Washington Post reports.

“This was an investigation that was appropriately predicated and that had to be opened, and it was in the main, conducted in the right way,” Comey said, pointing out the dozens of people who were charged as a result of the investigation. “The notion that the attorney general believes that was an illegitimate endeavor to investigate mystifies me.”

Comey also suggested Barr was “acting like the personal lawyer for the president.”

“It ought to be a concern for all of us, because we need that institution, and we need that institution to be seen as separate from our tribal warfare,” Comey said.

Trump fired Comey on May 9, 2017, setting off the special counsel investigation. 

Comey acknowledged mistakes were made, particularly with the bureau’s controversial surveillance of former Trump campaign adviser Carter Page. 

“I’m not looking to shirk responsibility,” he said. “The director is responsible.”

At the beginning of the hearing, Sen. Lindsey Graham, R-S.C., criticized the handling of the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA).

“This is not just an abuse of power against Mr. Page and the Trump campaign,” Graham said. “This is a system failure, and you could be next.”

An inspector general’s review of the FISA process found missteps, but concluded there was no political bias.