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Hackers Targeting Think Tanks Focused on Russian Policy

Vladimir Putin
AP
• August 31, 2016 12:06 pm

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A Russian group responsible for hacking into multiple Democratic computer networks is now directing cyber attacks against D.C.-based think tanks focused on Russian policy, cyber security firm CrowdStrike confirmed this week.

Investigators at the firm discovered "several intrusions" into think tank computer systems that it suspects are the work of a Russian hacking group called Cozy Bear and APT 29, the Wall Street Journal reported.

CrowdStrike published a report in June blaming Cozy Bear for the year-long breaches at the Democratic National Committee. The Russian group has also targeted unclassified networks at the White House, State Department, and U.S. Joint Chiefs of Staff.

The Center for Strategic & International Studies confirmed it was targeted last week.

James Andrew Lewis, the senior vice president and director at the think tank, called the attack "a badge of honor."

"Any respectable think tank has been hacked," Lewis told Defense One on Monday. "The Russians just don’t get the idea of independent institutions, so they are looking for secret instructions from Obama. Another benefit is they can go to their bosses and show what they took to prove their worth as spies."

CyberStrike founder Dmitri Alperovitch said that fewer than five think tanks and 10 staffers researching Russia were compromised by the "highly targeted operation."

A Russian embassy spokesman referred the Wall Street Journal to a statement by Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov issued earlier this month calling the reports "pseudo sensational news."

"President [Vladimir] Putin has repeatedly articulated our position and stated publicly that we never interfere in the internal affairs of other countries," Lavrov said Aug. 17.

The FBI alerted local election officials across the U.S. earlier this month advising them to ramp up cyber security measures after uncovering evidence that hackers breached the Arizona and Illinois election networks this summer.

U.S. security officials also believe Russian intelligence hackers targeted reporters at U.S. news organizations, including the New York Times as part of a broader scheme of cyber attacks relating to the November election.