WHO WON THE JANUARY 2020 DEBATE?
IOWA DEMOCRAT DEBATE

DEMOCRATS: COLLUSION STRIKES BACK -- “RUSSIANS HACKED BURISMA?”

Shades of Hillary Clinton…

Question: How to deflect attention from Ukraine corruption involving George Soros, Hunter Biden, Former United States Ambassador to Ukraine Marie Yovanovitch, the Obama State Department, and the Obama Administration?

Answer:    Lay it all off on Russian disinformation inserted into a hacked Burisma server.

Russians Hacked Ukrainian Gas Company at Center of Impeachment

With President Trump facing an impeachment trial over his efforts to pressure Ukraine to investigate former Vice President Joseph R. Biden Jr. and his son Hunter Biden, Russian military hackers have been boring into the Ukrainian gas company at the center of the affair, according to security experts.

The hacking attempts against Burisma, the Ukrainian gas company on whose board Hunter Biden served, began in early November, as talk of the Bidens, Ukraine and impeachment was dominating the news in the United States.

It is not yet clear what the hackers found, or precisely what they were searching for. But the experts say the timing and scale of the attacks suggest that the Russians could be searching for potentially embarrassing material on the Bidens — the same kind of information that Mr. Trump wanted from Ukraine when he pressed for an investigation of the Bidens and Burisma, setting off a chain of events that led to his impeachment. <Source: New York Times>

Russians hacked company key to Ukraine scandal: researchers

A U.S. cybersecurity company says Russian military agents have successfully hacked the Ukrainian gas company at the center 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.

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. The timing of the operation raises the possibility that Russian agents could be searching for material damaging to the Bidens or scheming to plant forged data and sow misinformation online. <Source: AP>

Question:  Who is the security company and who is behind the company.

Q&A: Oren Falkowitz, the former NSA hacker defending presidential campaigns from online attacks

As a hacker working for the National Security Agency, Oren Falkowitz learned how to use a seemingly innocuous email to trick a user into giving up control of their digital lives.

Now he’s responsible for protecting presidential campaigns from falling victim to the same kind of attacks.

Falkowitz is the CEO and co-founder of Area 1 Security, a cybersecurity firm that protects dozens of businesses, nonprofits and political campaigns from phishing attempts. Four years after Russian operatives hacked thousands of emails from Hillary Clinton’s campaign and the Democratic National Committee, cybersecurity is a bigger issue than ever for White House hopefuls — and Area 1’s headquarters, in an incongruously historic Queen Anne house in Redwood City, is on the front lines.

This summer, the company persuaded the Federal Election Commission to allow it to provide low-cost services to political campaigns, which would typically be a violation of rules designed to prevent businesses from currying political favor.

About half of the major 2020 presidential candidates are now using Area 1’s services, according to Falkowitz. He says the company has already blocked attempts by foreign governments to break into campaigns’ networks — although he won’t divulge many details. <Source: Mercury News>

It appears that Falkowitz supports Democrats, including presidential candidates Elizabeth Warren and Cory Booker…

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And, I am unsure of who the company’s client may be…

The Cybersecurity 202: FEC poised to limit who can give political campaigns free cybersecurity help

The Federal Election Commission appears poised to draw strict limits this week on which organizations can provide free cybersecurity help to political campaigns targeted by foreign hackers.

The FEC just recently gave the go-ahead to a nonprofit run by former campaign directors for Hillary Clinton and Mitt Romney, upending rules that typically consider such free services illegal campaign contributions. But commissioners appear ready to reject a similar request from a small for-profit company that protects against phishing attacks, according to two draft opinions commissioners will debate at a meeting Thursday.

Cybersecurity pros argue that political campaigns need as much help as they can get if they want to avoid a replay of the Russian hacking operation that rocked the 2016 election. But campaign finance hawks are wary of opening the floodgates to all security organizations out of concern they’ll try to barter for political favors later.

“The concern is that a company provides free stuff to a candidate and the candidate gets into office and the company comes back and says, ‘Hey, you owe us,’ ” Adav Noti, chief of staff at the Campaign Legal Center told me.

Noti’s group wrote an early draft of the advisory opinion the FEC approved in late May allowing the nonprofit Defending Digital Campaigns to offer free cybersecurity services on a strictly nonpartisan basis. The reasoning, in a nutshell, was that the danger of Russian or Chinese hackers running roughshod over the 2020 campaign outweighed the danger of the nonprofit benefiting politically.

But that reasoning shouldn’t extend to a private company, Noti told me, because a company’s main goal is making money and improving its standing – not improving democracy.

“Corporations just have no business giving money or free services to candidates under the law,” he said. “That’s exactly the sort of corruption of the democratic process these laws are here to correct.”

Yet security pros such as Oren Falkowitz -- CEO of Area 1 Security, the company seeking to provide the services -- say that limiting companies' contributions could leave presidential and congressional campaigns underprotected against an onslaught of attacks from Russian hackers looking to upend the 2020 contest or from other U.S. adversaries looking to follow the Russian playbook. <Source: The Washington Post>

Is it possible that Area 1 Security is working with Defending Digital Campaigns which may be run by the former campaign directors for Hillary Clinton and Mitt Romney?

shot-2

Apparently so according to this screenshot (https://www.defendcampaigns.org/partners)

Any “connected people” on the Board of Defending Digital Campaigns?

Board Members

Debora Plunkett, Board Chair

Former Director of Information Assurance at the National Security Agency

Debora Plunkett is a cybersecurity leader with over 30 years of experience.  A former Director of Information Assurance at the National Security Agency, she is currently Principal of Plunkett Associates LLC, a consulting business. She is a Senior Fellow at Harvard’s Belfer Center and a Professor of Cybersecurity at the University of Maryland. 

Ms. Plunkett served on the National Security Council at the White House in the Administrations of Presidents Clinton and George W. Bush where she developed national cybersecurity policies and programs. Debora earned an undergraduate degree from Towson University, an MBA from Johns Hopkins University, and a Master of Science in National Security Strategy from the National War College. (https://www.defendcampaigns.org/team)

Robby Mook

President of the House Majority PAC, CBS Contributor, Former Campaign Manager Hillary Clinton

Robby Mook is a nationally recognized political strategist, who has organized winning organizations at the local, state and national level.  Mook served as Campaign Manager for Hillary Clinton’s 2016 presidential campaign, where he built a $1 billion, 50-state, 4,500-person organization.  He also ran Terry McAuliffe’s winning campaign for Governor of Virginia, U.S. Jeanne Shaheen’s first winning campaign for U.S. Senate and led the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee in 2012, when Democrats gained 8 seats. 

Mook is now President of the House Majority PAC, which is dedicated to protecting and expanding the Democratic House Majority.  He is also a Senior Fellow at the Belfer Center for Science and International Affairs at the Harvard Kennedy School of Government and a CBS contributor.  (https://www.defendcampaigns.org/team)

Matt Rhoades

Co-CEO of CGCN Group, Former Campaign Manager, Mitt Romney

Matt Rhoades currently serves as Co-CEO of CGCN Group, an integrated advocacy and strategic communications firm that specializes in helping corporations, nonprofits and trade associations navigate complex legislative and regulatory issues.

 In 2017, Mr. Rhoades teamed up with Robby Mook, Hillary Clinton’s 2016 campaign manager, and Eric Rosenbach, former Defense Secretary Ash Carter’s Chief of Staff, to launch the Defending Digital Democracy Project at Harvard University’s Belfer Center for Science and International Affairs. The initiative develops strategies to protect political organizations and election infrastructure from hackers and cyber threats. In 2015, he served as a fellow at George Washington University’s Graduate School of Political Management.

Mr. Rhoades gained prominence working at the highest levels of political organizations and campaigns. As campaign manager for Governor Mitt Romney’s 2012 presidential campaign, he successfully guided Governor Romney’s campaign to victory through a crowded field of candidates in the Republican presidential primary. In 2010, Mr. Rhoades served as the Executive Director to Governor Mitt Romney’s Free and Strong America Political Action Committee. He also served as the Deputy Campaign Manager and Communications Director on Governor Mitt Romney’s 2008 presidential campaign. (https://www.defendcampaigns.org/team)

Bottom line…

I found the 8-page report unconvincing, and unlike professional-level reports, there is no indication who requested the report, who paid for the report, and what might be contained in the full report. All I found was suspicious generalities and attributions, nothing to indicate the subject nature of any material surreptitiously obtained. And, most importantly, there does not appear to be a forensic examination of the Burisma server or logs which might show foreign incursions.

Since the timing is suspect, the players appear to be Democrat heavyweights, and I have little or no confidence in the report or its findings. That is, if it is possible a state-sponsored group hacked Burisma, why would the NSA be above suspicion?

We are so screwed.

-- steve


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