Russia hacked: Putin’s aide has secrets spilled by Ukrainian group, sparking suspicions of proxy cyberwar

A Ukrainian group called CyberHunta hacked into the account of an assistant to presidential aide Vladislav Surkov

Andrew Buncombe
New York
Friday 28 October 2016 15:35
Comments
Russian President Vladimir Putin speaks at a meeting of the Valdai International Discussion Club in Sochi, Russia, on 27 October 2016
Russian President Vladimir Putin speaks at a meeting of the Valdai International Discussion Club in Sochi, Russia, on 27 October 2016

Is it simply a case of karma? Or is this a deliberate cyber payback from the US?

After a series of leaks of hacked emails belonging to senior member of the Democratic Party and Hillary Clinton’s campaign, this week it was the turn for the disclosure of correspondence belonging to a top aide to Russian President Vladimir Putin. The emails suggest direct political and financial ties with pro-Russian separatists in eastern Ukraine.

Mr Putin has denied any connection to the separatists, whether with military or financial support, despite widespread evidence to the contrary. Fighting has raged in eastern Ukraine for two years, since rebels in the Donetsk region proclaimed their independence from Ukraine and sought to join Russia. Anywhere up to 10,000 people have been killed.

A group called Cyber Hunta hacked into the account of an assistant to presidential aide Vladislav Surkov

USA Today said a Ukrainian group called Cyber Hunta hacked into the account of an assistant to presidential aide Vladislav Surkov and uploaded more than 2,000 emails this week. Mr Surkov, although under sanctions for his role in the separatist conflict, travelled to Berlin this month with Mr Putin for a summit on Ukraine.

The hacked emails include a June 2014 list of casualties from the separatist Donetsk People’s Republic (DNR) in eastern Ukraine, sent by then-chairman, Denis Pushilin. Another email listed expenses to set up the DNR’s Ministry of Information.

The leaks followed claims from US intelligence agencies that Russia was responsible for a series of hacks on American officials. Some analysts suggested these new leaks could be a retaliation.

Earlier this month, Vice President Biden told NBC that the US would be “sending a message” over the hacking that Mr Putin would recognise.

“He’ll know it,” Mr Biden said. “And it will be at the time of our choosing. And under the circumstances that have the greatest impact.”

Mark Galeotti, senior researcher at the Institute of International Relations in Prague told USA Today that while there was no evidence that the leak was the direct retaliation that Mr Biden had threatened, there was plenty to suggest it was.

“I cannot help but wonder if this is the kind of response that US policymakers have been hinting at, following the various hacks blamed on Russia, either working through Ukrainians or simply handed to them,” he said.

“This kind of a leak is enough to warn the Russians that the USA has certain capabilities and is willing to use them. Welcome to the world of proxy cyberwars.”

Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov dismissed the emails as fake in comments to Russian news agencies, saying that Mr Surkov did not use an email. But Ukraine’s National Security Service said Wednesday that the emails were real.

The leak of the emails came as a new poll suggested that most Republicans believe Russia is attempting to influence the US presidential election.

Some 55 per cent of US adults, including 51 per cent of Republicans and 65 per cent of Democrats, said they thought Russia was trying to tip the scales in the election. The Reuters poll said most believe it is trying to help Mr Trump win.

Register for free to continue reading

Registration is a free and easy way to support our truly independent journalism

By registering, you will also enjoy limited access to Premium articles, exclusive newsletters, commenting, and virtual events with our leading journalists

Please enter a valid email
Please enter a valid email
Must be at least 6 characters, include an upper and lower case character and a number
Must be at least 6 characters, include an upper and lower case character and a number
Must be at least 6 characters, include an upper and lower case character and a number
Please enter your first name
Special characters aren’t allowed
Please enter a name between 1 and 40 characters
Please enter your last name
Special characters aren’t allowed
Please enter a name between 1 and 40 characters
You must be over 18 years old to register
You must be over 18 years old to register
Opt-out-policy
You can opt-out at any time by signing in to your account to manage your preferences. Each email has a link to unsubscribe.

Already have an account? sign in

By clicking ‘Register’ you confirm that your data has been entered correctly and you have read and agree to our Terms of use, Cookie policy and Privacy notice.

This site is protected by reCAPTCHA and the Google Privacy policy and Terms of service apply.

Join our new commenting forum

Join thought-provoking conversations, follow other Independent readers and see their replies

Comments

Thank you for registering

Please refresh the page or navigate to another page on the site to be automatically logged in