Researchers Say Suspected Russian DNC Hackers May Have Targeted GOP as Well

WASHINGTON, DC - APRIL 05:  Senate Armed Services Committee Chairman Sen. John McCain (R-AZ) delivers an opening statement before hearing testimony from U.S. Cyber Command head and NSA Director Navy Adm. Michael Rogers in the Hart Senate Office Building on Capitol Hill April 5, 2016 in Washington, DC. When asked by McCain if Russia has the capability to inflict harm on the United States' cyber infrastructure, Rogers replied, "Yes." (PHOTO CREDIT: Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images)
WASHINGTON, DC – APRIL 05: Senate Armed Services Committee Chairman Sen. John McCain (R-AZ) delivers an opening statement before hearing testimony from U.S. Cyber Command head and NSA Director Navy Adm. Michael Rogers in the Hart Senate Office Building on Capitol Hill April 5, 2016 in Washington, DC. When asked by McCain if Russia has the capability to inflict harm on the United States’ cyber infrastructure, Rogers replied, “Yes.” (PHOTO CREDIT: Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images)

Hackers linked to Russian intelligence services may have targeted some prominent Republican lawmakers, in addition to their well-publicized spying on Democrats, based on research into leaked emails published on a little-noticed website.

The site, DC Leaks, launched in June but started getting new attention in recent days, when researchers said they had uncovered ties between the site and suspected Moscow-backed hackers. Those are the same hackers whom researchers have blamed for previous digital break-ins at the Democratic National Committee and the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee.

“We believe DC Leaks is another Russian-backed influence outlet,” digital security firm ThreatConnect said in a Friday blog post.

The site’s content is heavily weighted toward Democratic targets, including data dumps from a former top NATO general, major Democratic fundraiser George Soros and a prominent Clinton campaign volunteer.

But the site also includes a small “portfolio” of roughly 300 emails from Republican targets, including purported emails from the campaign staffs for Sen. John McCain, a 2008 presidential hopeful, and Lindsey Graham, who briefly ran for president during this cycle. Both lawmakers are stalwart critics of Russian President Vladimir Putin. Also included in the dump are emails from 2012 GOP presidential candidate Michele Bachmann and party officials in several states.

If the hackers were indeed targeting high-level politicians from both major parties, that may complicate Hillary Clinton supporters’ narrative that Putin’s regime is trying to put Donald Trump in the White House.

But the presence of GOP-affiliated emails could also be part of a disinformation campaign meant to make the site seem nonpartisan, cautioned Toni Gidwani, director of research operations at ThreatConnect, in an interview with POLITICO.

Exposing both parties could “bolster the credibility of DC Leaks as a hacktivist outlet,” she said.

None of the Republicans named in the DC Leaks portfolio immediately responded to requests for comment. Email leaks do not necessarily mean that hackers have breached the GOP officials who appear on DC Leaks.

ThreatConnect said Friday that the digital forensics and circumstantial evidence surrounding DC Leaks pointed to Russia’s involvement.

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SOURCE: Politico, Cory Bennett