The Russians Who Hacked the DNC Are Now Targeting European Governments

At least three countries have been affected, researchers say, with more victims likely.

Annette Riedl/DPA via ZUMA Press

Facts matter: Sign up for the free Mother Jones Daily newsletter. Support our nonprofit reporting. Subscribe to our print magazine.

The group of Russian hackers that hacked the Democratic National Committee ahead of the 2016 US presidential election “has been busy compromising government targets, including three European Ministries of Foreign Affairs and the Washington DC embassy of a European Union county, all without drawing attention to their activities,” according to a report released Thursday by ESET, a European cybersecurity firm.

The research shows the Russian government’s apparent hacking of foreign government targets remains robust and active, and that the attackers have found ways to conduct operations even after the high profile attacks on the US presidential election brought unprecedented public attention to their efforts.

The report, titled “Operation Ghost: The Dukes aren’t back—they never left,” details how the group known variously as Cozy Bear, APT29, or the Dukes—which was one of two Russian-intelligence linked groups found to have hacked the DNC—has used a variety of methods to remain active even as they were under the eyes of the world’s major intelligence services. According to the report, the group has been targeting foreign ministries in at “least three different countries in Europe” and European diplomats in the United States; additional victims are likely, the authors note, but because the hackers used unique setups for each attack they were not able to identify them.

“We spent months apparently chasing a ghost then, a few months ago, we were able to attribute several distinct intrusions to the Dukes,” the authors wrote, explaining a difficult research process based on analyzing code, shared infrastructure, malware operations, and overlaps with previous attacks. The report details the group’s harnessing of some previously unseen tools combined with tactics and methods from previous known attacks, including the use of Twitter and Reddit to host URLs related to the operations, Dropbox, and steganography—hiding data within other data, in this case concealing information enabling the attacks in innocuous-looking photos.

Two photos used as part of Russian operations described in the report.

 

“Operation Ghost shows that the Dukes never stopped their espionage activities,” the authors wrote. “They might pause for a while and re-appear in another form, but they still need to spy to fulfill their mandates.”

REAL QUICK, REAL URGENT

Minority rule, corruption, disinformation, attacks on those who dare tell the truth: There is a direct line from what's happening in Russia and Ukraine to what's happening here at home. And that's what MoJo's Monika Bauerlein writes about in "Their Fight Is Our Fight" to unpack the information war we find ourselves in and share a few examples to show why the power of independent, reader-supported journalism is such a threat to authoritarians.

Corrupt leaders the world over can (and will) try to shut down the truth, but when the truth has millions of people on its side, you can't keep it down for good. And there's no more powerful or urgent argument for your support of Mother Jones' journalism right now than that. We need to raise about $450,000 to hit our online fundraising budget in these next few months, so please read more from Monika and pitch in if you can.

payment methods

REAL QUICK, REAL URGENT

Minority rule, corruption, disinformation, attacks on those who dare tell the truth: There is a direct line from what's happening in Russia and Ukraine to what's happening here at home. And that's what MoJo's Monika Bauerlein writes about in "Their Fight Is Our Fight" to unpack the information war we find ourselves in and share a few examples to show why the power of independent, reader-supported journalism is such a threat to authoritarians.

Corrupt leaders the world over can (and will) try to shut down the truth, but when the truth has millions of people on its side, you can't keep it down for good. And there's no more powerful or urgent argument for your support of Mother Jones' journalism right now than that. We need to raise about $450,000 to hit our online fundraising budget in these next few months, so please read more from Monika and pitch in if you can.

payment methods

We Recommend

Latest

Sign up for our free newsletter

Subscribe to the Mother Jones Daily to have our top stories delivered directly to your inbox.

Get our award-winning magazine

Save big on a full year of investigations, ideas, and insights.

Subscribe

Support our journalism

Help Mother Jones' reporters dig deep with a tax-deductible donation.

Donate