Did Putin Direct Russian Hacking? And Other Big Questions – The Atlantic

Suspected Russian hacking has targeted other countries, as well. In April 2007, websites and servers belonging to the government, banks, and media in the former Soviet republic of Estonia came under a sustained monthlong attack. A U.S. diplomatic cable, published in WikiLeaks, called the Baltic state an “unprecedented victim of the world’s first cyber attacks against a nation state.” Similar attacks targeted the former Soviet republic of Georgia a year later, and Ukraine more recently. All three countries have pro-Western leaders that are deeply critical of what they see as Russia’s turn toward authoritarianism under President Vladimir Putin.

And prior to perhaps their most high-value target thus far, the DNC, Russian hackers allegedly targeted the World Anti-Doping Agency ahead of the Rio Olympics this summer. WADA had reported a widespread Russian state-run doping program that involved the country’s track-and-field program. That revelation resulted in the Russian track-and-field team being banned from the games. WADA was hacked in apparent response, and the personal information of several athletes, including the Russian whistleblower who alerted WADA to the scandal, was leaked online. It’s worth pointing out that the Russian government has dismissed claims that it is involved.

What does “hacking” actually entail?

It depends: Hackers believed to be from Russia have accessed computers and servers belonging to government and political parties in rival countries. In some cases, such as in the DNC or WADA hack, those hacks resulted in the leak of information on websites such as WikiLeaks. In other cases, the attacks focused on national infrastructure: In Ukraine, for instance, according to Wired, hackers targeted the power grid; they then attacked the telephone service so customers couldn’t call to report the outages. When they hit the NSA, hackers posted the agency’s  “cyber-weapons” to file-sharing sites, according to Esquire. The hackers don’t just target states and institutions. Frequently, individuals are caught up, as well. On December 9, the Times reported that suspected Russian hackers targeted critics of the country’s government who live overseas by posting child porn on their computers.    

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