The FBI has expanded its ongoing investigation into organized hacking attempts on DNC to include mobile phones of several Democratic Party officials that might have been compromised by hackers.
The Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) has received reports of attempts by suspected organized Russian hacker groups to gain illegal access to the smartphones used by Democratic Party officials. While it is still to be corroborated, several investigating officials suspect Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton’s email servers may have helped the hackers perpetrate the hack and penetrate security.
Quite a few phones of Democratic Party officials were compromised as recently as the past month, shared four people with knowledge about the breach of security and the ongoing investigation, reported Reuters. Needless to say, these incidents merely emphasize the widening scope of the U.S. criminal inquiry into one of the largest and most organized cyber-attacks on Democratic Party organizations conducted by well-funded and possibly government-backed hackers with powerful resources at their disposal.
Investigating officials speculate the hacks on Democratic Party officials are attempts to disrupt, derail or influence the fast approaching election in which Ms. Clinton faces Republican Party candidate Donald Trump. With one of the most crucial elections just a few weeks away, security agencies have stressed that such breaches could prove disastrous to national security and must be plugged immediately.
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As expected, Russia has vehemently denied any role in the cyber-attacks the FBI is investigating. The country has continually alienated itself from such hacks and stressed through its foreign office that it does not condone such attacks. However, at least two people with knowledge about the recent attempted phone hacking incidents insist they were most likely orchestrated by Russia-backed hacker groups.
The FBI hasn’t released any official statement pertaining to the recent phone hacking incident. Moreover, the Clinton campaign spokesperson denied knowledge of any investigation. The Democratic National Committee (DNC), as well as the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee (DCCC), have remained silent on the sensitive issue.
Regardless, several FBI agents reportedly approached a few Democratic Party officials. It is not clear what the agents discussed, but it is believed they asked the party officials if their phones may have been compromised. It is quite likely a preliminary examination of the phones were conducted. Since this might easily escalate into a matter of national security, the FBI seems to be extra precautious.
While it is not clear how many mobile phones may have been compromised, the FBI reportedly asked several party officials to turn in their devices for forensic examination, reported CNN. The investigators could “image” the device.
An image is essentially an exact copy of the device and related data. It often serves as a reference point to check if anything could be remotely altered. Investigators often rely on the images to track minute changes in code and data of the smartphones to pinpoint hacking attempts. Often, malicious code is hidden in innocent-looking and popular applications. Given the sophistication of the hackers, it might be a difficult task for the FBI to spot the breach.
If the mobile phones are compromised, the hackers would gain access to a wealth of information including call data, text messages, emails, photos, and contact lists. A phone is often an extension of the person using it, and as such, forms a very integral part of all the communication, say experts.
Ms. Clinton has blasted Russia for its alleged nefarious activities in the past. During Monday’s presidential debate, she insisted there was “no doubt” Russia has sponsored hacks against “all kinds of organizations in our country.” She even mentioned Russian President Vladimir Putin by name, saying the following.
“Putin is playing a really tough, long game here. And one of the things he’s done is to let loose cyber attackers to hack into government files, to hack into personal files, hack into the Democratic National Committee.”
Ms. Clinton’s Republican rival Donald Trump, on the other hand, stressed there’s no definitive proof indicating it was Russia that backed and sponsored the strategic email server and phone hacks.
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