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DNC Network Is Hacked; Trump Research Revealed


This past spring, in April, the Democratic National Committee's IT staff noticed something odd in their computer network. They called in a Washington computer security company called CrowdStrike, which made a surprising discovery. With us in the studio to tell us more is CrowdStrike's co-founder Dmitri Alperovitch. What did you find?

DMITRI ALPEROVITCH: Well, here are the facts, Renee. What we discovered when we got - when we got called in, in May is that there were actually two separate intrusions inside DNC's network. And they were related to two Russian intelligence operations - independent ones. There was no indication that they were collaborating in any way whatsoever. You had one intelligence agency, which we believe to be the GRU, the Russian military intelligence agency, that had come into the network in April and went straight for the research department of the DNC and specifically stole data related to the opposition research that the DNC had on Donald Trump. There was another group that came in, in the summer of last year. And they went after the communication systems of the DNC, specifically their e-mail *** servers and were able to monitor the email and chat communications coming across those servers.

MONTAGNE: And how can you be sure that it was Russian spy agencies that hacked the system?

ALPEROVITCH: Well, we're very confident of that based on all the forensic evidence that we have available to us during the course of this investigation. We have actually been able to track these two groups that we call cozy bear and fancy bear, back to operations that they have conducted over the past several years. The cozy bear group, which is the group from last summer, had actually hacked the White House, the State Department, the chairman of the joint chiefs of staff last year. The other group, the fancy bear group, has targeted ministries of defense all over Europe. They've have targeted the German Bundestag, the German Parliament, as well as the TV5 station in France.

MONTAGNE: So - so you're pretty sure of this. And of course, the bears being, probably, the Russian bears. I guess, that's - that's the reference there?

ALPEROVITCH: That's exactly right.

MONTAGNE: You know, clearly they got something. But what effectively was Russia after?

ALPEROVITCH: Well, we know that they were after the opposition research on Donald Trump. That was in their direct interest, at least from the perspective of that fancy bear actor from April. And...

MONTAGNE: In their direct interest because...

ALPEROVITCH: Well, Donald Trump is now the Republican candidate. Last April - at the end of last April when they came in, it was clear that he was going to be most likely the Republican nominee. And of course, he is a political novice. There's not much known about him and his foreign policy positions, in particular vis-a-vis Russia. So anything that they can uncover about his past policy positions would be of a huge interest. And anything that they can uncover that perhaps is negative in his background perhaps would be useful to them should he ever become president.

MONTAGNE: Well, any sense that the Russians are in other systems, other political groups, the Republican National Committee, for instance?

ALPEROVITCH: Well, we have no evidence of that. But it doesn't mean - we're not in those networks today. So I couldn't ascertain. But I think it's safe to say that the Russians are extremely interested in anything that has to do with the U.S. political system. And it's not out of the realm of possibility that they are in many other the systems.

MONTAGNE: Dmitri Alperovitch is co-founder and chief technology officer of CrowdStrike. Thanks very much for joining us.

ALPEROVITCH: Thank you. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

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