Phishing Attacks against Trump and Biden Campaigns

Google's threat analysts have identified state-level attacks from China.

I hope both campaigns are working under the assumption that everything they say and do will be dumped on the Internet before the election. That feels like the most likely outcome.

Posted on June 8, 2020 at 6:13 AM • 10 Comments

Comments

jbmartin6June 8, 2020 7:37 AM

I'll bet if I look into my own trash, or the mail filters of any moderately sized organization, I will find phishing messages sourced from one or another state-backed actor. That's a part of what they do. While it certainly isn't surprising that campaign workers would be targeted, just finding a phishing email doesn't tell us anything. Everyone gets those. Regardless, very good advice to assume there will be a leak.

nobodyJune 8, 2020 9:46 AM

State-sponsored hackers have specific objectives; they're not just breaking into things arbitrarily.

Russian practice 2016 was to hack both parties but release Democratic emails to help the GOP and keep GOP emails secret, presumably to blackmail the GOP later if necessary. Given that the Chinese, like the Russians, want to put Trump back in office because of the damage he does to American credibility, the reasonable assumption is that they will repeat the Russian pattern.

(Although it's hard to see what possible use internal mail would serve against the GOP. The kind of things Republican operatives say behind closed doors would only energize their support base if made public.)

David SmithJune 8, 2020 10:58 AM

When I retired/gave up quite a few years ago, the advice that made sense was to assume that the "bad guys" were inside whatever perimeter I was counting on, and work from there. Certainly, anything transmitted by unencrypted email, SMS, etc. (the electronic equivalents of a post card) will be available to anyone who cares, and most encrypted messages to anyone who cares badly enough.

And we all know that almost none of us behave as if that were the case.

nobodyJune 8, 2020 12:21 PM

It's curious that a well-reasoned comment articulating why China is far more likely to leak Democratic emails than Republican ones is somehow unacceptable content here.

You can't take politics out of the issue when evaluating the risks of politically-directed (state-sponsored) attacks against political parties during the exercise of the political process through an election campaign.

State-sponsored attacks aren't the results of 400lb overgrown children causing random destruction for the fun of it. They have specific objectives and understanding those objectives helps greatly in preparing defenses. China has a preference for the outcome of 2020 and that preference means that the Democratic party needs to be on guard against intrusions far more than the GOP does.

DroneJune 8, 2020 2:33 PM

Bruce Schneier Said: "I hope both campaigns are working under the assumption that everything they say and do will be dumped on the Internet before the election."

Who cares. Almost all the "news" you see and read these days is fake to begin with. Multiply that by 1000 when it comes to "Social Media". Whether you say something bad or not, sooner or later you will be accused of saying it anyway.

Clive RobinsonJune 8, 2020 6:43 PM

@ Bruce, ALL,

That feels like the most likely outcome.

Such are,the joys of the technology we have wrought on grand delusions of how we were bringing unstopable freedom to all the peoples of the world... The reality as normal is the gift was stolen and plough shears beaten into weapons of a war that few can comprehend let alone think sensibly about.

Thus idiots bang drums, wave flags and draw their sabers from their scabards they lean forward upon their steads at the gallop screaming death to the tyrants. But like Sancho Panzer we saddened few trot on, our asses beneath us, sorrowfuly following Quixotic fools that think them selves the most glorious of noble leaders, as they tilt not at windmills but just shimering haze near high noon. With their feavered imaginings seeing dust devils as a rampant foe spining up words writ large of their foibles with a pen far mightier than any sword the Quixotic fools could hold.

Thus the question arises "Why do we do this to ourselves?" what madness is it that causes us to repeat every four years an experiment we know will fail, proving yet again that Einstein was right...

But no, some deep down perversion means it has to be big, brash, fast and furious, as the News has to reach a fast climax so that all the adverts can be screaned...

MrCJune 9, 2020 12:27 AM

@ nobody:

I'm not so sure the Chinese want the Trump regime to continue. Sure, they have some incentives, so such as virtually assured U.S. silence in the face of China stripping Hong Kong of self-rule and violently suppressing the resulting protests. But the Chinese surely realize that Trump is dangerously unstable and they would have to live with the fallout (literally) if he did something bonkers like nuke North Korea.

MrBJune 9, 2020 1:54 PM

@MrC - laughable bias. The USA is withdrawing’ special status’ from Hong Kong, which will have profound effects upon HK, China and indeed the whole region.

IsmarJune 9, 2020 8:19 PM

@Clive and others,
I was going to say that the silver lining would be the complete transparency of the both campaigns, but then I realized that those who steel the information may choose to alter it or present it outside the right context or cherry pick the parts that suit them ...

So, all of this following of the news and the campaign promises is setup on a wrong premise - don't focus on what they promise but on what they have done in the past - this should be the only valid criteria when deciding how to vote.

@Clive - can you please contact me directly - Bruce has got my details - there is a project (not security related but of great benefit to fellow humans nonetheless) that I would like to discuss with you before I embark on yet another Don Quixote adventure :-)

JonKnowsNothingJune 12, 2020 2:13 AM

AstroTurfing with Twitter

Twitter deletes 170,000 accounts linked to China influence campaign

Getting people to do something other than their natural inclination has been a common feature of civilization. Now, we have so much information but we cannot make better use of it; since one aspect of astroturfing is to drown out other views by manipulating the AI ranking algorithms used to monetize information and the internet.

Perhaps rather than sum up number of the bogus accounts, companies might publish the trail of all click-bait money flowing into deeper waters.

If one considers carefully, this is not a revenue neutral enterprise. Money, or redirection of funds either to/from advertisers or to/from readers is being extracted along with the delivery of dubious information. The indirect cost is carried by the populace.

Calculating indirect costs is always a difficult endeavor, not because you cannot determine the value but mostly because people do not believe the results. But the direct costs even if provided by a government which can print their own fiat-money, is the opportunity cost of doing "something else". It robs the government of their own options and reduces their ability to shift funding elsewhere.


ht tps://www.theguardian.com/technology/2020/jun/12/twitter-deletes-170000-accounts-linked-to-china-influence-campaign

23,750 core accounts – and 150,000 “amplifier” accounts that boosted the content posted by those core accounts ... analysed 348,608 tweets between January 2018 and April 2020

Twitter also released the details of 1,152 accounts associated with promoting state-backed political propaganda from Russia, and 7,340 accounts promoting to Turkey’s AK party and President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan.

ht tps://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Turing_test

The Turing test, developed by Alan Turing in 1950, is a test of a machine's ability to exhibit intelligent behaviour equivalent to, or indistinguishable from, that of a human. Turing proposed that a human evaluator would judge natural language conversations between a human and a machine designed to generate human-like responses.

ht tps://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Roman_triumph

On the day of his triumph, the general wore a crown of laurel and the all-purple, gold-embroidered triumphal toga picta ("painted" toga), regalia that identified him as near-divine or near-kingly, and even was known to paint his face red. He rode in a four-horse chariot through the streets of Rome in unarmed procession with his army, captives, and the spoils of his war.

ht tps://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Nudge_theory

indirect suggestions as ways to influence the behavior and decision making of groups or individuals.

ht tps://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Astro_turfing

Astroturfing is the practice of masking the sponsors of a message or organization (e.g., political, advertising, religious or public relations) to make it appear as though it originates from and is supported by grassroots participants. It is a practice intended to give the statements or organizations credibility by withholding information about the source's financial connection.

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Sidebar photo of Bruce Schneier by Joe MacInnis.