The Daily Beast is reporting that Democratic Sen. Claire McCaskill's office was the first known target in Russia's attempts to hack the 2018 midterms and the senator's staff was hit in August 2017 by Russian GRU phishing attempts.
The Russian intelligence agency behind the 2016 election cyberattacks targeted Sen. Claire McCaskill as she began her 2018 re-election campaign in earnest, a Daily Beast forensic analysis reveals. That makes the Missouri Democrat the first identified target of the Kremlin’s 2018 election interference.
McCaskill, who has been highly critical of Russia over the years, is widely considered to be among the most vulnerable Senate Democrats facing re-election this year as Republicans hope to hold their slim majority in the Senate. In 2016, President Donald Trump defeated Hillary Clinton by almost 20 points in the senator’s home state of Missouri.
There’s no evidence to suggest that this attempt to lure McCaskill staffers was successful. The precise purpose of the approach was also unclear. Asked about the hack attempt by Russia’s GRU intelligence agency, McCaskill told The Daily Beast on Thursday that she wasn’t yet prepared to discuss it.
“I’m not going to speak of it right now,” she said. “I think we’ll have something on it next week. I’m not going to speak about it right now. I can’t confirm or do anything about it right now.”
The senator later released a statement asserting that the cyberattack was unsuccessful.
“Russia continues to engage in cyber warfare against our democracy. I will continue to speak out and press to hold them accountable,” McCaskill said. “While this attack was not successful, it is outrageous that they think they can get away with this. I will not be intimidated. I’ve said it before and I will say it again, Putin is a thug and a bully.”
In August 2017, around the time of the hack attempt, Trump traveled to Missouri and chided McCaskill, telling the crowd to “vote her out of office.” Just this last week, however, Trump said, on Twitter, that he feared Russians would intervene in the 2018 midterm elections on behalf of Democrats.
McCaskill isn't denying that her office was targeted either, that's the big thing here. And yes, the Russian "Fancy Bear" GRU hack team pulled a Podesta:
The hackers sent forged notification emails to Senate targets claiming the target's Microsoft Exchange password had expired, and instructing them to change it. If the target clicked on the link, he or she was taken to a convincing replica of the U.S. Senate's Active Directory Federation Services (ADFS) login page, a single sign-on point for e-mail and other services.
As with the Podesta phishing, each Senate phishing email had a different link coded with the recipient's email address. That allowed the fake password-change webpage to display the user's email address when they arrived, making the site more convincing.
Of course the Russians want to hurt Democrats. 2016 showed them that it only took one successful phish to get to "How the sausage is made" campaign secrets, and then add their own "incriminating" emails to the "document dump". It helped them put their man in power two years ago, there's nothing but upside for them in the course of trying to hurt Democratic senators in close races to keep their man in power in 2018.
Trump will just yell "fake news!" and press on.