Currently, Mr. Trump is facing an impeachment trial over his threats to withhold aid to the Ukraine in an effort to investigate former vice president and political opponent Joe Biden and his son Hunter Biden.
Now, it has been reported that Russian military hackers have been boring into the Ukrainian gas company at the center of the scandal. According to The New York Times:
‘The hacking attempts against Burisma, the Ukrainian gas company on whose board Hunter Biden served, began in early November, as talk of the Bidens, Ukraine and impeachment was dominating the news in the United States.’
It is not clear what the hackers found or exactly what they were searching for, but the timing and scale of the hacks suggest that the Russians could be searching for potentially embarrassing information on the Bidens – information similar to what Trump wanted from the Ukraine.
The Times reported:
‘The Russian tactics are strikingly similar to what American intelligence agencies say was Russia’s hacking of emails from Hillary Clinton’s campaign chairman and the Democratic National Committee during the 2016 presidential campaign. In that case, once they had the emails, the Russians used trolls to spread and spin the material, and built an echo chamber to widen its effect.’
According to Area 1, the Silicon Valley security firm that detected the hacking, Russian hackers from a military intelligence unit formerly known as G.R.U. and private researchers by the alias “Fancy Bear” used so-called phishing emails that appear designed to steal usernames and passwords.
According to The Times:
‘In this instance, the hackers set up fake websites that mimicked sign-in pages of Burisma subsidiaries, and have been blasting Burisma employees with emails meant to look like they are coming from inside the company.’
Oren Falkowitz, a co-founder of Area 1, who previously served at the National Security Agency said:
‘The attacks were successful.
‘The timing of the Russian campaign mirrors the G.R.U. hacks we saw in 2016 against the D.N.C. and John Podesta. Once again, they are stealing email credentials, in what we can only assume is a repeat of Russian interference in the last election.’
In 2018, the Justice Department indicted seven officers from the same military intelligence unit.
According to The Times:
‘American officials are warning that the Russians have grown stealthier since 2016, and are again seeking to steal and spread damaging information and target vulnerable election systems ahead of the 2020 election.’
Russia has also been working since the early days of Trump’s presidency to turn the focus away from its election inteference in 2016. Russia has seeded conspiracy theories about Ukrainian meddling and Democratic complicity.
Andrew Bates, a spokesman for the Biden campaign said:
‘Donald Trump tried to coerce Ukraine into lying about Joe Biden and a major bipartisan, international anti-corruption victory because he recognized that he can’t beat the vice president.
‘Now we know that Vladimir Putin also sees Joe Biden as a threat. Any American president who had not repeatedly encouraged foreign interventions of this kind would immediately condemn this attack on the sovereignty of our elections.’
Mr. Falkowitz said:
‘The Burisma hack is a cookie-cutter G.R.U. campaign. Russian hackers, as sophisticated as they are, also tend to be lazy. They use what works. And in this, they were successful.’