Russian government hacks DNC, steals opposition intel on Trump

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Illustration via Max Fleishman

There is no indication yet how the hackers gained access to the Democrats' networks.

The Democratic National Committee was successfully compromised by Russian government hackers who accessed emails, chat conversations, and all of the party's opposition research on Donald Trump for the 2016 presidential campaign, the Washington Post and NBC News have reported

“It’s the job of every foreign intelligence service to collect intelligence against their adversaries,” Shawn Henry told the Post. Henry is the president of CrowdStrike, the cybersecurity firm working for the Democrats, and a former FBI head of cybersecurity.

"We know for certain they're going to come back," Henry said on MSNBC. "That's their job, to collect intelligence."

There is no indication yet how the hackers gained access to the Democrats' networks.

Trump and Russian president Valdimir Putin have traded compliments throughout the 2016 campaign. Putin has called Trump "a brighter person, talented without a doubt" and the Republican returned the warm words, "I like him because he called me a genius. He said Trump is the real leader."

Unlike Hillary Clinton, who has been involved in politics for decades, Trump is a new politician that foreign intelligence agencies don't know as much about. A hack into the Democrats' research on Trump could be a significant coup for the Russians in dealing with Trump the candidate and potential president. 

Similarly, if the hackers accessed Democratic research on Clinton analyzing her potential weaknesses, the Russian government can make use of that information in dealing with the next president. It's not clear how far the breach extended in terms of information on Clinton. 

“We’re perceived as an adversary of Russia,” Henry explained. “Their job when they wake up every day is to gather intelligence against the policies, practices, and strategies of the U.S. government. There are a variety of ways. [Hacking] is one of the more valuable because it gives you a treasure trove of information.”

Only political information appears to have been accessed, the DNC said. No financial, donor, or personal information was looked at, according to the committee.

Neither the Democrats or Republicans are subject to data security regulation by the Federal Trade Commission, ACLU technologist Chris Soghoian explained.

Campaign officials told the Washington Post that as of last weekend the hackers no longer have access to the DNC network, which they said may have been compromised for about a year. 

Investigations into the breach are ongoing.

Editor's note: This article has been updated to provide additional clarity and context.

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