Russia has already made three attempts to hack the 2018 midterm elections. Despite Trump’s (obviously bogus) claims that Russia is helping the Democrats, a recent attack has allegedly targeted Democratic Senator Claire McCaskill.
In order to understand the most recent hacking, we have go back to hackings that took place during the 2016 presidential election. Fancy Bear is a subgroup of Russia’s GRU intelligence service and they are the group credited with attacking Hillary Clinton’s campaign by targeting campaign staffers. The group used fake emails that informed the staffers their email passwords had “expired.” Each email contained a link that the target would click to “reset their password” where they would be redirected to a website with a second link. If the second link was clicked, the hackers would have access to the target’s email account.
Fancy Bear’s fake emails and websites were crafted with Microsoft logos so the entire process looked identical to the real Microsoft password reset process. However, Microsoft found out about the hacking and sued the Russian hackers in a U.S. court. Unfortunately, Microsoft didn’t win the case until after the election in August of 2017. Now, all Fancy Bear websites that include Microsoft logos are being shut down.
Now, Fancy Bear is turning its attention to 2018. A Sept. 26 snapshot of one of Fancy Bear’s fake password change websites shows the Senate email address of a McCaskill policy aide displayed. This means that one of the websites proven by Microsoft to be fake and run by Fancy Bear was attempting to trick one of McCaskill’s aides, and ultimately McCaskill’s campaign, into giving up access to their email accounts. However, the screenshot did not provide any evidence to reveal if the hacking attempt was successful.
On Thursday, McCaskill confirmed the hacking attempt but said Fancy Bear was ultimately unsuccessful in its attempt to hack her campaign. She said, “While this attack was not successful, it is outrageous that they think they can get away with this. I will not be intimidated. I’ve said it before and I will say it again, Putin is a thug and a bully.”
On Tuesday, Trump attempted to flip the Russia hacking situation and make it seem as if the hackers are helping the Democrats win the midterms:
I’m very concerned that Russia will be fighting very hard to have an impact on the upcoming Election. Based on the fact that no President has been tougher on Russia than me, they will be pushing very hard for the Democrats. They definitely don’t want Trump!— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) July 24, 2018
Trump’s statements have proved to be incorrect following the news of Fancy Bear’s attempt to target McCaskill’s campaign. Microsoft has revealed that Fancy Bear has targeted “three candidates” in the 2018 midterm elections, but did not identify which candidates. Now that McCaskill has identified herself as one of the hacking targets, the intention of Russian hackers is clear.
McCaskill is one of the most important and vulnerable Democratic seats in the Senate. She is currently leading her Republican opponent by only one point, and if she loses her seat in November it will make it even more difficult for Democrats to take control of the Senate. Fancy Bear wouldn’t target her if they wanted Democrats to win the midterms, but they would target her if they wanted Democrats to remain the minority in the Senate.
These new hacking attempts come in the middle of special counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation into Russian involvement in the 2016 presidential election.