Russian military agents allegedly hacked the Ukrainian gas company at the centre of the scandal that led to U.S. President Donald Trump’s impeachment, in a Jan. 13, 2020 story. (Photo by THE ASSOCIATED PRESS)

Russian military agents allegedly hacked the Ukrainian gas company at the centre of the scandal that led to U.S. President Donald Trump’s impeachment, in a Jan. 13, 2020 story. (Photo by THE ASSOCIATED PRESS)

Russians hacked company key to Ukraine scandal: researchers

BOSTON — A U.S. cybersecurity company says Russian military agents have successfully hacked the Ukrainian gas company at the centre of the scandal that led to President Donald Trump’s impeachment.

Russian agents launched a phishing campaign in early November to steal the login credentials of employees of Burisma Holdings, the gas company, according to Area 1 Security, a Silicon Valley company that specializes in email security.

Hunter Biden, son of former U.S. vice-president and Democratic presidential hopeful Joe Biden, previously served on Burisma’s board.

It was not clear what the hackers were looking for or may have obtained, said Area 1’s CEO, Oren Falkowitz, who called the findings “incontrovertible” and posted an eight-page report. But the timing of the operation suggests that the Russian agents could be searching for material that damaging to the Bidens.

The House of Representatives impeached Trump in December for abusing the power of his office by enlisting the Ukrainian government to investigate Biden, a political rival, ahead of the 2020 election. A second charge accused Trump of obstructing a congressional investigation into the matter.

“Our report doesn’t make any claims as to what the intent of the hackers were, what they might have been looking for, what they are going to do with their success. We just point out that this is a campaign that’s going on,” said Falkowitz, a former National Security Agency offensive hacker whose company’s clients include candidates for U.S. federal elected offices. In an earlier interview, he told The Associated Press that top candidates for the U.S. presidency and House and Senate races in 2020 have in the past few months each been targeted by about a thousand phishing emails.

Falkowitz did not name the candidates. Nor would he name any clients.

Russian hackers from the same military intelligence unit that Area 1 said was behind the operation targeting Burisma have been indicted for hacking emails from the Democratic National Committee and the chairman of Hillary Clinton’s campaign during the 2016 presidential race.

Stolen emails were released online at the time by Russian agents and WikiLeaks in an effort to favour Trump, special counsel Robert Mueller determined in his investigation.

Area 1 discovered the phishing campaign by the Russian military intelligence unit, known as the GRU, on New Year’s Eve, said Falkowitz, who would not discuss whom he notified prior to going public. He said he followed the industry standard process of responsible disclosure, which would include notifying Burisma.

In the report, he said the GRU agents used fake, lookalike domains in the phishing campaign that were designed to mimic the sites of real Burisma subsidiaries.

Falkowitz said the operation targeting Burisma involved tactics, techniques and procedures that GRU agents had used repeatedly in other phishing operations, matching “several patterns that lots of independent researchers agree mimic this particular Russian actor.” Area 1 says it has been tracking the Russian agents for several years.

The discovery’s timing — just weeks before presidential primaries begin in the United States — highlights the need to protect political campaigns from targeted phishing attacks, which are behind 95 per cent of all information breaches, said Falkowitz.

“This is a real specific, timely case that has real implications,” he said. “To discover it and potentially get out in front of it is a significant departure from what’s typical in the cyber security community, where someone just tells you, yeah, you’re dead.”

In phishing, an attacker uses a targeted email to lure a target to a fake site that resembles a familiar one. There, unwitting victims enter their usernames and passwords, which the hackers then harvest. Phished credentials allow attackers both to rifle through a victim’s stored email and masquerade as that person.

Area 1 said its researchers connected the phishing campaign targeting Burisma to an effort earlier last year that targeted Kvartal 95, a media organiza tion founded by Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskiy.

In this case, the Russian military agents, from a group security researchers call “Fancy Bear,” peppered Burisma employees with emails designed to look like internal messages.

In order to detect phishing attacks, Area 1 maintains a global network of sensors designed to sniff out and block them before they reach their targets.

In July, the U.S. Federal Elections Commission gave Area 1 permission to offer its services to candidates for federal elected office and political committees at the same low rates it charges non-profits.

By The Associated Press

Just Posted

Red Deer respiratory therapist Sarah MacKenzie was among the first central Alberta health professionals to receive the Pfizer vaccine in December 2020. Since then, nearly 3.4 million doses have been administered and COVID cases are falling rapidly. Photo by Alberta Health Services
Red Deer COVID cases continue to fall sharply

Red Deer cases almost into the double digits after topping more than 900 only five weeks ago

(Advocate file photo.)
Red Deer city council discusses strategies to restore integrated emergency dispatching

Red Deer city councillors discussed additional ways on Tuesday to try to… Continue reading

Local developers who are doing building upgrades or new construction will face less land servicing costs and gain some flexibility. (File photo by Advocate staff)
From left: Montana First Nation councillor Reggie Rabbit, Samson Cree Nation councillor Louise Omeasoo, Samson Cree Nation councillor Katherine Swampy, Samson Cree Nation councillor Shannon Buffalo and Samson Cree Nation chief Vern Saddleback were present during the painting of the Maskwacis Pride crosswalk. (Contributed photo)
Being gay made him contemplate suicide: Councillor in Maskwacis opens up

Maskwacis got a bit mote colourful over the weekend. Volunteers spent Saturday… Continue reading

Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau participates in a plenary session at the G7 Summit in Carbis Bay, England on Friday June 11, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Adrian Wyld
Canada donating 13M surplus COVID-19 vaccine doses to poor countries

Trudeau says the government will pay for 87 million shots to be distributed to poor countries

The Pornhub website is shown on a computer screen in Toronto on Wednesday, Dec. 16, 2020. Pornhub says it has removed all content uploaded by non-verified users. The sex website faced accusations it hosted illegal content. The company, which is owned by Montreal-based Mindgeek, says it has suspended all previously uploaded content that was not created by one of its content partners or members of its Model Program. THE CANADIAN PRESS
International women’s rights advocates call on Canada to hold Pornhub to account

Jeanette Westbrook says being sexually abused as a child will haunt her… Continue reading

FILE - In this Jan. 9, 2021 file photo, transporters Miguel Lopez, right, Noe Meza prepare to move a body of a COVID-19 victim to a morgue at Providence Holy Cross Medical Center in the Mission Hills section of Los Angeles. The U.S. death toll from COVID-19 has topped 600,000, even as the vaccination drive has drastically slashed daily cases and deaths and allowed the country to emerge from the gloom. (AP Photo/Jae C. Hong, File)
US COVID-19 deaths hit 600,000, equal to yearly cancer toll

The U.S. death toll from COVID-19 topped 600,000 on Tuesday, even as… Continue reading

FILE - In this April 1, 2019 file photo, Louisiana Attorney General Jeff Landry talks about health care legislation he's backing in the upcoming session, in Baton Rouge, La. The Biden administration’s suspension of new oil and gas leases on federal land and water was blocked Tuesday by a federal judge in Louisiana. U.S. District Judge Terry Doughty's ruling came in a lawsuit filed in March by Louisiana’s Republican attorney general, Jeff Landry and officials in 12 other states. (AP Photo/Melinda Deslatte, File)
Federal judge blocks Biden’s pause on new oil, gas leases

NEW ORLEANS (AP) — The Biden administration’s suspension of new oil and… Continue reading

Israeli police officers detain a Palestinian man during clashes that erupted ahead of a planned march by Jewish ultranationalists through east Jerusalem, outside Jerusalem's Old City, Tuesday, June 15, 2021. (AP Photo/Mahmoud Illean)
Israelis march in east Jerusalem in test for new government

JERUSALEM (AP) — Hundreds of Israeli ultranationalists, some chanting “Death to Arabs,”… Continue reading

Montreal Canadiens right wing Brendan Gallagher (11) vies for the puck with Vegas Golden Knights defenseman Alex Pietrangelo (7) during the third period in Game 1 of an NHL hockey Stanley Cup semifinal playoff series Monday, June 14, 2021, in Las Vegas. (AP Photo/John Locher)
Vets Pietrangelo, Perry contributing for Vegas, Montreal

LAS VEGAS — Alex Pietrangelo and Corey Perry had very different free… Continue reading

Montreal Canadiens goaltender Jake Allen stands for the national anthem prior to an NHL hockey game against the Calgary Flames in Montreal, Saturday, January 30, 2021. Public health experts say Quebec should wait until more people have received a second dose of COVID-19 before increasing the number of fans allowed to attend Montreal Canadiens home games. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Graham Hughes
Quebec to increase arena capacity before first home game in Habs playoff series

MONTREAL — Quebec will increase the number of people allowed to attend… Continue reading

New CFL balls are photographed at the Winnipeg Blue Bombers stadium in Winnipeg, Thursday, May 24, 2018. Halifax regional council will consider today a new report on a proposed 24,000-seat stadium, the pivotal component of a bid to land a Canadian Football League team for the East Coast's largest city.THE CANADIAN PRESS/John Woods

Most Read