Russia cyber hacking to undermine democracy globally: US expert

Christopher Porter said FireEye has observed Russian interference in elections for many years now.

By: PTI | Washington | Published:October 22, 2016 1:38 pm
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The hacking into the Democratic Party server and emails of the Clinton Campaign’s officials by Russians is part of the grand design to challenge the democratic system, a well-known American cyber expert has said and warned that any retaliation by the US would escalate the situation probably triggering a dangerous global cyber war.

“What the Russians probably want to make the election seen illegitimate. So, they are stealing documents from politicians, from individuals, leaking secrets from around the world. The reason they are doing that is to make democracy seen like a bad system,” Christopher Porter, a top intelligence lead from FireEye’s iSIGHT team, told PTI.

“It is not like they are trying to get one particular candidate elected. They want to make it look so that whoever loses feel that this was not a fair election and people would not trust the results of the vote. Ultimately they want to break democracy itself in India and around the world wherein it is seen like a less legitimate system. That’s their ultimate goal to send message to the public that democracy cannot be trusted,” Porter said.

He said there is “no doubt” that the Russian government is behind these latest cyber hacking into the Democratic party and those of the top officials of the Clinton Campaign.

FireEye’s iSIGHT team for the past several years has tracked and analyzed the two Russian state-sponsored groups behind this attack – APT 28 & APT 29.

FireEye is a publicly listed enterprise cybersecurity company that provides products and services to protect against advanced cyber threats such as advanced persistent threats and spear phishing.

“I believe that APT 28 knew that they would be traced back to Russia, when they did the operation and that is kind of trying to send the US Government a message. It is definitely the Russian Government and they wanted the US Government to know about it as well,” Porter claimed.

Noting that the Russian Government’s hacking groups are good as anyone in the world, he said they are lead hackers and they can get into very sensitive secrets.

“They can get into companies. They can conduct attack that can disable critical infrastructure like power plants.

Their only limit is what the Government is willing to do. They are among the best in the world,” he said.

Porter said FireEye has observed Russian interference in elections for many years now.

“This is not a new activity. It is new only in the US.

They routinely undertake cyber operations against democracies in Eastern Europe and other neighbors in the region, mostly to effect turnout, to spread propaganda, and to make the election seen less legitimate. We have not seen them directly altering votes and their candidates do not usually win the election even with their meddling,” he said.

However, he said, “I am not aware one way or the other” of Russian meddling into Indian election system. APT 28, which is the same group that got into DNC (Democratic National Committee) probably took documents and leaked them, has also conducted cyber operation claiming to support ISIS.