Russian Hackers and the Iowa Caucus

Grind for January 17th
“Half the world is composed of people who have something to say and can’t, and the other half who have nothing to say and keep on saying it.” – Robert Frost

A Turn Of Events

The Headline

Russia accused of hacking Ukrainian company that employed Hunter Biden

The Grind

California cybersecurity company “Area 1” claimed Russian hackers recently infiltrated Ukrainian gas company Burisma Holdings. Joe Biden’s son Hunter served on Burisma’s board from 2014 to 2019.

“What we’ve uncovered is that the same Russian cyber actors who targeted the [Democratic National Committee] in 2016 have been actively launching a phishing campaign against employees of Burisma Holdings and its subsidiaries, to try to steal their email usernames and passwords,” said Area 1 co-founder Oren Falkowitz.

“What we know is that they’re able to access the usernames and passwords for the employees of Burisma. And from there, they’re able to see likely what’s in those accounts.”

The phishing campaign began as early as November, days or weeks after House Democrats formalized their impeachment inquiry.

The Details

I’m sure you know the story by now, but Hunter Biden’s unusual role at Burisma Holdings coincided with his father’s move (as Vice President) to withhold money from Ukraine until they fired prosecutor Viktor Shokin.

At the time, Shokin was investigating Burisma Holdings.

This is the same scandal President Trump asked the Ukrainian government to investigate during his controversial phone call to Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky last summer.

That phone call formed the basis for the impeachment articles about which the Senate will hold trial beginning this week.

According to Area 1, the same Russian hackers also targeted a company founded by President Zelensky.

Democrats are certain to connect this incident to a moment in July 2016 when an exasperated candidate Trump publicly asked Russia to help find Hillary Clinton’s missing emails: “Russia, if you’re listening, I hope you’re able to find the 30,000 emails that are missing.”According to Robert Mueller’s investigation, Russian hackers started targeting the Clinton campaign later that day.

Risky Business

The Headline

Iowa will use a smartphone app to transmit caucus data

The Grind

Despite concerns about election security, Iowa’s Democratic Party has decided to use a new smartphone app to calculate and transmit results during its upcoming caucus.

Unlike a traditional vote, Iowa’s caucuses are social affairs in which attendants pledge support for a candidate by standing in groups in different areas of a large room such as a gymnasium or church.

In Iowa, the political party holding the caucus is responsible for all administration, staffing, and funding – meaning the caucus will rely on work by unpaid volunteers.

The Details

On February 3rd, caucus leaders will compile results and submit them directly to the Central Party using the unnamed app – which they will download onto their personal phones.

While experts have warned that ‘security through obscurity’ is a mistake, Iowa’s Democratic Chairman Troy Price has refused to provide details about what company built the app or what measures exist to block hackers.

“We as the Party have taken this very seriously and we know how important it is for us to make sure that our process is secure and that we protect the integrity of the process,” said Price “We want to make sure we are not relaying information that could be used against us.”

Price is convinced the Party could rely on paper results if the smartphone app is compromised, but fear the damage to public confidence.

“Once you report something, it’s really hard to undo it, no matter how many retractions you print, no matter how many apologies you say, it’s too late,” says computer science expert and former caucus leader Doug Jones. “From that point of view, someone hacking the reporting process, even though its purpose is entirely informal, not intended to have any permanent importance, is something that could be very disruptive.”

Did you know… More steel in the United States is used to make bottle caps than to manufacture automobile bodies.