Federal investigators are hoping to “name and shame” Russia for hacking the Democratic National Committee by indicting at least six Kremlin hackers for the digital break-in, according to a former FBI cyber agent.
The strategy — which the agent confirmed to POLITICO after a Wall Street Journal report early Thursday — is one developed during President Barack Obama’s second term, when the Justice Department charged five members of China’s People’s Liberation Army for hacking American corporate targets, even though there was almost no chance the defendants would ever be apprehended.
The approach has continued into the Trump era, with the DOJ charging two Russian spies earlier this year for hacking into Yahoo and stealing data on 500 million users. “I think it is important that we show that we can use the tools of law enforcement to go after criminal behavior,” Michael Daniel, former President Barack Obama’s cybersecurity coordinator, told MC at the time. The former FBI agent said the DNC indictments will be the next data point in the emerging trend. “It will be a name and shame campaign similar to the Chinese PLA hacker indictments,” the former agent, who requested anonymity to discuss a sensitive investigation, said in an email. “They are in Russia and won’t be arrested.”
DOJ’s investigation of the DNC hack and related Russian cyber intrusions is being kept separate from special counsel Robert Mueller’s probe into Moscow’s election-year meddling and possible collusion between the Kremlin and the Trump campaign. “Rather than take over the relatively technical cyber investigation, Mr. Mueller and the Justice Department agreed that it would be better for the original prosecutors and agents to retain that aspect of the case,” the Journal reported.
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MILITARY CYBER TEAMS MAKE BIG PROGRESS, BUT MORE NEEDED — Cyber Mission Force teams at the Army and Navy are now fully operational, the services announced Thursday. That’s one year ahead of the deadline for the teams, which perform both cyber defense and combat support missions. The Army has 41 teams and the Navy 40. “The Army’s cyber teams are built and fully operational, but our work is just beginning, as we ensure they stay trained and ready to step into the joint fight when needed,” said Lt. Gen. Paul Nakasone, commanding general of Army Cyber Command.
But as the Defense Department’s Cyber Mission Forces get up to speed, the Pentagon must to do more to make sure the National Guard has the ability to defend the homeland against cyberattacks, eight senators wrote this week to Defense Secretary James Mattis in a letter first obtained by MC. The National Guard’s straddling of state and federal legal authorities make it uniquely positioned for the homeland defense role, argues the letter from Republican Sens. Steve Daines and Jerry Moran and Democratic Sens. Tammy Baldwin, Dick Durbin, Tom Udall, Patrick Leahy, Martin Heinrich and Jon Tester.
For four years, National Guard teams within the Cyber Mission Force have trained next to active duty troops, the letter points out. “Yet, the full value of cyber capability in the National Guard will not be realized until the Guard units are able to fulfill every mission requirement under the full range of available authorities,” it states, adding that many leaders “have limited or no ability to use cyber personnel for domestic operations.”