Posts Tagged ‘hackers’

FBI investigating ties between Russia and Trump campaign

March 20, 2017

AFP and The Associated Press

© Nicholas Kamm, AFP | FBI Director James Comey (pictured left) and NSA Director Mike Rogers on Capitol Hill in Washington D.C. on March 20, 2017

Text by NEWS WIRES

Latest update : 2017-03-20

FBI Director James Comey confirmed Monday that the bureau is investigating possible links and coordination between Russia and associates of President Donald Trump as part of a probe of Russian interference in last year’s presidential election.

The extraordinary revelation came at the outset of Comey’s opening statement in a congressional hearing examining Russian meddling and possible connections between Moscow and Trump‘s campaign. He acknowledged that the FBI does not ordinarily discuss ongoing investigations, but said he’d been authorized to do so given the extreme public interest in this case.

“This work is very complex, and there is no way for me to give you a timetable for when it will be done,” Comey told the House Intelligence Committee.

Earlier in the hearing, the chairman of the committee contradicted an assertion from Trump by saying that there had been no wiretap of Trump Tower. But Rep. Devin Nunes, a California Republican whose committee is one of several investigating, said that other forms of surveillance of Trump and his associates have not been ruled out.

Comey was testifying at Monday’s hearing along with National Security Agency Director Michael Rogers.

Trump, who recently accused President Barack Obama of wiretapping his New York skyscraper during the campaign, took to Twitter before the hearing began, accusing Democrats of making up allegations about his campaign associates’ contact with Russia during the election. He said Congress and the FBI should be going after media leaks and maybe even Hillary Clinton instead.

“The real story that Congress, the FBI and others should be looking into is the leaking of Classified information. Must find leaker now!” Trump tweeted early Monday as news coverage on the Russia allegations dominated the morning’s cable news.

Trump also suggested, without evidence, that Clinton’s campaign was in contact with Russia and had possibly thwarted a federal investigation. U.S. intelligence officials have not publicly raised the possibility of contacts between the Clintons and Moscow. Officials investigating the matter have said they believe Moscow had hacked into Democrats’ computers in a bid to help Trump’s election bid.

The real story that Congress, the FBI and all others should be looking into is the leaking of Classified information. Must find leaker now!

Monday’s hearing, one of several by congressional panels probing allegations of Russian meddling, could allow for the greatest public accounting to date of investigations that have shadowed the Trump administration in its first two months.

The top two lawmakers on the committee said Sunday that documents the Justice Department and FBI delivered late last week offered no evidence that the Obama administration had wiretapped Trump Tower, the president’s New York City headquarters. But the panel’s ranking Democrat said the material offered circumstantial evidence that American citizens colluded with Russians in Moscow’s efforts to interfere in the presidential election.

“There was circumstantial evidence of collusion; there is direct evidence, I think, of deception,” Rep. Adam Schiff, D-Calif., said on NBC’s “Meet the Press.” ”There’s certainly enough for us to conduct an investigation.”

The Democrats made up and pushed the Russian story as an excuse for running a terrible campaign. Big advantage in Electoral College & lost!

Nunes said: “For the first time the American people, and all the political parties now, are paying attention to the threat that Russia poses.”

“We know that the Russians were trying to get involved in our campaign, like they have for many decades. They’re also trying to get involved in campaigns around the globe and over in Europe,” he said on “Fox News Sunday.”

The Senate Intelligence Committee has scheduled a similar hearing for later in the month.

It is not clear how much new information will emerge Monday, and the hearing’s open setting unquestionably puts Comey in a difficult situation if he’s asked to discuss an ongoing investigation tied to the campaign of the president.

At a hearing in January, Comey refused to confirm or deny the existence of any investigation exploring possible connections between Trump associates and Russia, consistent with the FBI’s longstanding policy of not publicly discussing its work. His appearances on Capitol Hill since then have occurred in classified settings, often with small groups of lawmakers, and he has made no public statements connected to the Trump campaign or Russia.

Any lack of detail from Comey on Monday would likely be contrasted with public comments he made last year when closing out an investigation into Clinton’s email practices and then, shortly before Election Day, announcing that the probe would be revived following the discovery of additional emails.

(AP)

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FBI Director Comey: Justice Dept. has no information that supports President Trump’s tweets alleging he was wiretapped by Obama

March 20, 2017

James Comey. Photo by Win McNamee/Getty Images (File Photo)

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The Washington Post
March 20 at 11:27 AM
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FBI Director James B. Comey acknowledged on Monday the existence of a counterintelligence investigation into the Russian government’s efforts to interfere in the 2016 election, and said that probe extends to the nature of any links between Trump campaign associates and the Russian government.
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Testifying before the House Intelligence Committee, Comey said the investigation is also exploring whether there was any coordination between the campaign and the Kremlin, and “whether any crimes were committed.”
.The acknowledgment was an unusual move, given that the FBI’s practice is not to confirm the existence of ongoing investigations. “But in unusual circumstances, where it is in the public interest,” Comey said, “it may be appropriate to do so.”

Comey said he had been authorized by the Justice Department to confirm the wide-ranging probe’s existence.

He spoke at the first intelligence committee public hearing on alleged Russian interference in the 2016 election, along with National Security Agency head Michael S. Rogers.

Comey: No information to support Trump’s wiretapping tweets

FBI Director James B. Comey said at a House Intelligence Committee hearing that he has no information that Trump Tower was wiretapped by former president Barack Obama. (Reuters)

The hearing comes amid the controversy fired up by President Trump two weeks ago when he tweeted, without providing evidence, that President Barack Obama ordered his phones tapped at Trump Tower.

Comey says there is “no information’’ that supports Trump’s claims that his predecessor Barack Obama ordered surveillance of Trump Tower during the election campaign.

“I have no information that supports those tweets,’’ said Comey. “We have looked carefully inside the FBI,’’ and agents found nothing to support those claims, he said. He added the Justice Department had asked him to also tell the committee that that agency has no such information, either.

Under questioning from the top Democrat on the House Intelligence Committee, Rep. Adam Schiff (D-Calif,), Comey said no president could order such surveillance.

Committee chairman, Rep. Devin Nunes (R-Calif.) said in his opening statement, “The fact that Russia hacked U.S. election-related databases comes as no shock to this committee. We have been closely monitoring Russia’s aggressions for years…However, while the indications of Russian measures targeting the U.S. presidential election are deeply troubling, one benefit is already clear – it has focused wide attention on the pressing threats posed by the Russian autocrat. In recent years, Committee members have issued repeated and forceful pleas for stronger action against Russian belligerence. But the Obama administration was committed to the notion, against all evidence, that we could ‘reset’ relations with Putin, and it routinely ignored our warnings.”

Nunes said he hoped the hearing would focus on several key questions, including what actions Russia undertook against the United States during the 2016 election and did anyone from a political campaign conspire in these activities? He also wants to know if the communications of any campaign officials or associates were subject to any improper surveillance.

“Let me be clear,” he said. “We know there was not a wiretap on Trump Tower. However, it’s still possible that other surveillance activities were used against President Trump and his associates.”

Finally, Nunes said he is focused on leaks of classified information to the media. “We aim to determine who has leaked or facilitated leaks of classified information so these individuals can be brought to justice,” he said.

In his opening statement, Schiff said, “We will never know whether the Russian intervention was determinative in such a close election. Indeed it is unknowable in a campaign in which so many small changes could have dictated a different result. More importantly, and for the purposes of our investigation, it simply does not matter. What does matter is this: the Russians successfully meddled in our democracy, and our intelligence agencies have concluded that they will do so again.”

He added: “Most important, we do not yet know whether the Russians had the help of U.S. citizens, including people associated with the Trump campaign. Many of Trump’s campaign personnel, including the president himself, have ties to Russia and Russian interests. This is, of course, no crime. On the other hand, if the Trump campaign, or anybody associated with it, aided or abetted the Russians, it would not only be a serious crime, it would also represent one of the most shocking betrayals of our democracy in history.”

Just hours before the start of the hearing, Trump posted a series of tweets claiming Democrats “made up” the allegations of Russian contacts in an attempt to discredit the GOP during the presidential campaign. Trump also urged federal investigators to shift their focus to probe disclosures of classified material.

“The real story that Congress, the FBI and all others should be looking into is the leaking of Classified information,” Trump wrote early Monday. “Must find leaker now!”

Republican members pressed hard on the subject of leaks to the media that resulted in news stories about contacts between Russian officials and the Trump campaign or administration officials. Nunes sought an admission from the officials that the leaks were illegal under the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court act, the law that governs foreign intelligence-gathering on U.S. soil or of U.S. persons overseas.

“Yes,” Comey answered. “In addition to being a breach of our trust with the FISA court.”

One story in particular that apparently upset the Republicans was a Feb. 9 story by The Washington Post reporting that Trump’s national security advisor, Michael Flynn, discussed the subject of sanctions with the Russian ambassador, Sergey Kislyak, in the month before Trump took office. The Post reported that the discussions were monitored under routine, court-approved monitoring of Kislyak’s calls.

Rep. Tom Rooney (R-Fla.) pressed Rogers to clarify under what circumstances it would be legitimate for Americans caught on tape speaking with people under surveillance to have their identities disclosed publicly, and whether leaking those identities would “hurt or help” intelligence collection.

“Hurt,” Rogers noted.

Rogers stressed that the identities of U.S. persons picked up through “incidental collection” – that being the way intelligence officials picked up on Flynn’s phone calls with Kislyak – are disclosed only on a “valid, need to know” basis, and usually only when there is a criminal activity or potential threat to the United States at play.

Rogers added that there are a total of 20 people in the NSA he has delegated to make decisions about when someone’s identity can be unmasked.

The FBI probe combines an investigation into hacking operations by Russian spy agencies with efforts to understand how the Kremlin sought to manipulate public opinion and influence the election’s outcome.

In January, the intelligence community released a report concluding that Russian President Vladi­mir Putin wanted to not only undermine the legitimacy of the election process but also harm the campaign of Hillary Clinton and boost Trump’s chances of winning.

Hackers working for Russian spy agencies penetrated the computers of the Democratic National Committee in 2015 and 2016 as well as the email accounts of Democratic officials, intelligence official said in the report. The material was relayed to WikiLeaks, the officials said, and the anti-secrecy group began a series of damaging email releases just before the Democratic National Convention that continued through the fall.

On Friday, the Justice Department delivered documents to the committee in response to a request for copies of intelligence and criminal wiretap orders and applications. Nunes, speaking Sunday, said the material provided “no evidence of collusion” to sway the election toward Trump and repeated previous statements that there is no credible proof of any active coordination.

But Schiff, also speaking Sunday, said there was “circumstantial evidence of collusion” at the outset of the congressional investigations into purported Russian election meddling, as well as “direct evidence” that Trump campaign figures sought to deceive the public about their interactions with Russian figures.

The concerns about Moscow’s meddling are also being felt in Europe, where France and Germany hold elections this year. “Our allies,” Schiff said, “are facing the same Russian onslaught.”

https://www.washingtonpost.com/world/national-security/fbi-director-to-testify-on-russian-interference-in-the-presidential-election/2017/03/20/cdea86ca-0ce2-11e7-9d5a-a83e627dc120_story.html?utm_term=.2b44421224ec

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The Associated Press

WASHINGTON – FBI Director James Comey confirmed Monday that the bureau is investigating possible links and coordination between Russia and associates of President Donald Trump as part of a broader probe of Russian interference in last year’s presidential election.

The extraordinary revelation came at the outset of Comey’s opening statement in a congressional hearing examining Russian meddling and possible connections between Moscow and Trump’s campaign. He acknowledged that the FBI does not ordinarily discuss ongoing investigations, but said he’d been authorized to do so given the extreme public interest in this case.

“This work is very complex, and there is no way for me to give you a timetable for when it will be done,” Comey told the House Intelligence Committee.

Earlier in the hearing, the chairman of the committee contradicted an assertion from Trump by saying that there had been no wiretap of Trump Tower. But Rep. Devin Nunes, a California Republican whose committee is one of several investigating, said that other forms of surveillance of Trump and his associates have not been ruled out.

Comey was testifying at Monday’s hearing along with National Security Agency Director Michael Rogers.

Trump, who recently accused President Barack Obama of wiretapping his New York skyscraper during the campaign, took to Twitter before the hearing began, accusing Democrats of making up allegations about his campaign associates’ contact with Russia during the election. He said Congress and the FBI should be going after media leaks and maybe even Hillary Clinton instead.

“The real story that Congress, the FBI and others should be looking into is the leaking of Classified information. Must find leaker now!” Trump tweeted early Monday as news coverage on the Russia allegations dominated the morning’s cable news.

Trump also suggested, without evidence, that Clinton’s campaign was in contact with Russia and had possibly thwarted a federal investigation. U.S. intelligence officials have not publicly raised the possibility of contacts between the Clintons and Moscow. Officials investigating the matter have said they believe Moscow had hacked into Democrats’ computers in a bid to help Trump’s election bid.

Monday’s hearing, one of several by congressional panels probing allegations of Russian meddling, could allow for the greatest public accounting to date of investigations that have shadowed the Trump administration in its first two months.

The top two lawmakers on the committee said Sunday that documents the Justice Department and FBI delivered late last week offered no evidence that the Obama administration had wiretapped Trump Tower, the president’s New York City headquarters. But the panel’s ranking Democrat said the material offered circumstantial evidence that American citizens colluded with Russians in Moscow’s efforts to interfere in the presidential election.

“There was circumstantial evidence of collusion; there is direct evidence, I think, of deception,” Rep. Adam Schiff, D-Calif., said on NBC’s “Meet the Press.” `’There’s certainly enough for us to conduct an investigation.”

Nunes said: “For the first time the American people, and all the political parties now, are paying attention to the threat that Russia poses.”

“We know that the Russians were trying to get involved in our campaign, like they have for many decades. They’re also trying to get involved in campaigns around the globe and over in Europe,” he said on “Fox News Sunday.”

The Senate Intelligence Committee has scheduled a similar hearing for later in the month.

It is not clear how much new information will emerge Monday, and the hearing’s open setting unquestionably puts Comey in a difficult situation if he’s asked to discuss an ongoing investigation tied to the campaign of the president.

At a hearing in January, Comey refused to confirm or deny the existence of any investigation exploring possible connections between Trump associates and Russia, consistent with the FBI’s longstanding policy of not publicly discussing its work. His appearances on Capitol Hill since then have occurred in classified settings, often with small groups of lawmakers, and he has made no public statements connected to the Trump campaign or Russia.

Any lack of detail from Comey on Monday would likely be contrasted with public comments he made last year when closing out an investigation into Clinton’s email practices and then, shortly before Election Day, announcing that the probe would be revived following the discovery of additional emails.


PUBLISHED: MARCH 20, 2017, 8:01 A.M. 

Yahoo Hacking Charges Cast New Light on Ties Between Russia’s FSB, Cybercriminals

March 16, 2017

U.S. indictments overlap with major cybercrime scandal that rocked Russian political establishment

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Russian President Vladimir Putin attends a meeting at the Kremlin in Moscow. AFP photo

By Nathan Hodge
The Wall Street Journal
March 15, 2017 6:11 p.m. ET

MOSCOW — The U.S. government’s indictment of Russian government officials in connection with the hacking of Yahoo Inc. casts new light on the nexus between Russia’s intelligence services and the world of cybercriminals.

The Justice Department on Wednesday alleged two officers of Russia’s Federal Security Service, the successor agency to the Soviet-era KGB, recruited hackers to breach the Yahoo’s networks.

It isn’t the first time the U.S. government has accused Russia’s spies of tapping the expertise of hackers. U.S. intelligence agencies last year accused the Russian government of trying to interfere in the 2016 U.S. presidential elections by orchestrating the hacking of emails from the Democratic National Committee and other entities. The Russians have consistently denied any interference in U.S. domestic politics.

“Washington did not communicate with Moscow through the channels available to address issues related to cybersecurity in this case,” a Russian official said Wednesday following the Justice Department’s allegations. “This fact, as well as the lack of specifics in this case, suggest the next round of raising the theme of ‘Russian hackers’ in the domestic political squabbles in the U.S.”

The new U.S. indictments also appear to overlap with a major cybercrime scandal that has rocked the Russian political establishment.

Earlier this year, Russian news media were abuzz over the news of arrests tied to a high-profile treason case. Those arrested included at least two intelligence officials at the FSB and an employee at Kaspersky Lab, Russia’s most prominent cybersecurity firm. The Russian government provided little official confirmation, but investigative reports and Russian news media speculated the arrests were tied to a hacking collective named “Shaltai Boltai,” a shadowy group that earned notoriety in Russia by leaking the private correspondence of high-ranking government officials.

The FSB hasn’t spoken publicly about the treason case and couldn’t be reached about the charges announced Wednesday.

Much as WikiLeaks has become a headache for successive U.S. administrations, Shaltai Boltai revealed compromising information and hacked the accounts of prominent individuals, including the Twitter account of Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev.

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Adding to the sensation of the case, two of the individuals named late last year in the arrests were Russian intelligence officers charged with battling cybercrime: They worked in the Information Security Center, the FSB’s cybersecurity wing. One of those two officers was Dmitry Dokuchaev, who was also charged in the U.S. government indictment Wednesday.

Mr. Dokuchaev couldn’t be reached for comment. He is believed to be in Russia.

Andrei Soldatov, an expert on Russia’s internet, said Mr. Dokuchaev, who went by the online alias Forb, according to Russian media, was recruited into the security services for his skills and contacts in the darker corners of the web.

“He had some knowledge about the digital underground, that’s something really important,” Mr. Soldatov said. “For the FSB, it was the perfect thing to try to get.”

Mark Galeotti, senior researcher at the Institute of International Relations Prague, said Russian spy agencies had employed “a degree of outsourcing of capacity” for cyber operations, turning to groups that use hacking for criminal enterprises such as fraud and online scams.

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“The Americans outsource [cyber capabilities], but they tend not to go to criminals,” he said. “The Russians have a more pragmatic approach.”

Several countries caught up in confrontation with Russia have been on the receiving end of cyberattacks in recent years. Cyber attackers traced to Russia carried out attacks on Estonian websites in 2007, temporarily taking down much of the country’s online traffic. During a brief war between Russia and Georgia the following year, hackers traced to Russia attacked and defaced Georgian sites.

In recent years, however, Mr. Galeotti said Russian intelligence agencies have built up their own in-house cyberattack capabilities, recruiting hackers and putting them directly in government employ.

But when they need “surge capacity,” such as during the conflict with Ukraine, Mr. Galeotti added, “they have gone to the private sector — the criminal private sector.”

Write to Nathan Hodge at nathan.hodge@wsj.com

https://www.wsj.com/articles/yahoo-hacking-charges-cast-new-light-on-ties-between-russias-fsb-cybercriminals-1489615891

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 (Contains links to several other related articles)

Yahoo cyber indictment shows Kremlin, hackers working hand-in-hand

March 16, 2017

Reuters

Thu Mar 16, 2017 | 12:11am EDT

The John Sopinka Courthouse, where Karim Baratov appeared in front of a judge, in connection with a U.S. Justice Department investigation into the 2014 hacking of Yahoo, is pictured in Hamilton, Ontario, Canada March 15, 2017 . REUTERS/Peter Power
By Warren Strobel and Jonathan Landay | WASHINGTON

Wednesday’s indictments in the United States of four people in a 2014 cyber attack on Yahoo Inc (YHOO.O) provides the clearest details yet on what some U.S. officials say is a symbiotic relationship between Moscow’s security services and private Russian hackers.

The indictment charges two officers of the FSB, Russia’s Federal Security Service, and two hackers who allegedly worked hand-in-hand with them to crack 500 million Yahoo user accounts.

U.S. authorities and cyber security specialists have long said the Kremlin employs criminal hackers for its geostrategic purposes. They say the arrangement offers deniability to Moscow and freedom from legal troubles for the hackers.

A U.S. intelligence official, speaking on condition of anonymity, said employing criminal hackers helps “complement Kremlin intentions and provide plausible deniability for the Russian state.”

The FSB in Moscow did not respond immediately to a request for comment on Wednesday evening.

The United States sometimes engages with criminal hackers as well, buying tools from them or recruiting them to help find other criminal hackers, cyber security professionals and government officials say.

Milan Patel, a former FBI cyber agent and now managing director for cyber defense at K2 Intelligence, said the intermingling of espionage and cyber crime in Russia had led the United States and its allies to be far more wary about alerting Moscow to criminal hackers.

“Magically those guys would disappear off the battlefield and most likely end up working for the Russian government,” Patel said of the names shared by Washington.

The Russian government had no official comment on the charges in the Yahoo case.

Russian news accounts stressed that one of the FSB agents, Dmitry Dokuchaev, was arrested by Russian authorities in December and charged with treason.

The indictment charges Dokuchaev with having acted as a handler for a hacker named Karim Baratov, directing him to use the Yahoo data to crack emails on other systems and paying him a bounty when he succeeded.

Baratov is in custody in Canada, according to the Toronto police, while Dokuchaev remains in Russia.

The charges coincide with mounting tensions between U.S. intelligence agencies and Russian President Vladimir Putin’s government, which they accused of hacking the 2016 U.S. presidential election to influence the vote in favor of then-Republican candidate Donald Trump.

In addition, congressional committees are investigating possible links between Russian figures and associates of President Trump.

Senator John Warner of Virginia, the ranking Democrat on the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence, said in a statement the indictments showed “the close and mutually beneficial ties between the cyber underworld and Russia’s government and security services.”

He said the case “underscores the complexity and the urgency” of the committee’s investigation of Russian interference in the U.S. election.

James Lewis, a former State Department official and now a cyber expert at the Center for Strategic and International Studies, said there were three rules for cooperation between the Russian government and criminal hackers.

Private hackers know to avoid attacking Russian-language sites and to share their profits with authorities, he said. “Rule Number Three (is), if we ask you to do us a favor, do it.”

(Reporting by Warren Strobel and Jonathan Landay; Additional reporting by Dustin Volz; Editing by Jonathan Weber, Grant McCool and Paul Tait)

Related:

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Edward Snowden

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Julian Assage

Rigged Debates: Wikileaks Emails Confirm Media in Clinton’s Pocket

US charges Russian spies over Yahoo breach

March 15, 2017

BBC News

Yahoo logo

500 million user accounts were affected by the data breach. AFP photo

Two Russian spies are being indicted by the US Department of Justice over a huge breach of Yahoo user accounts.

Previously, Yahoo had said “state-sponsored” hackers were behind the 2014 incident that affected 500 million accounts.

The firm was criticised for the delay in informing users about the breach.

The stolen data included names, email addresses, telephone numbers, dates of birth and encrypted passwords, but not credit card data, according to Yahoo.

An announcement by the Justice Department detailing the charges is expected to be made later today.

Last year, users were advised to change their passwords.

Around eight million UK accounts were believed to have been affected – including some users of BT and Sky email services.

http://www.bbc.com/news/technology-39281063

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Justice Department will indict 2 Russian spies, 2 hackers in Yahoo breach

The move reflects the U.S. government’s increasing desire to hold foreign governments accountable for malicious acts in cyberspace.

The Justice Department is set to announce Wednesday the indictments of two Russian spies and two criminal hackers in connection with the heist of 500 million Yahoo user accounts in 2014, marking the first U.S. criminal cyber charges ever against Russian government officials.

The indictments target two members of the Russian intelligence agency FSB, and two hackers hired by the Russians.

The charges include hacking, wire fraud, trade secret theft and economic espionage, according to officials, who spoke on the condition of anonymity because the charges have not yet been announced. The indictments are part of the largest hacking case brought by the United States.

The charges are unrelated to the hacking of the Democratic National Committee and the FBI’s investigation of Russian interference in the 2016 presidential campaign. But the move reflects the U.S. government’s increasing desire to hold foreign governments accountable for malicious acts in cyberspace.

© GETTY/AFP/File

The FBI and the Justice Department declined to comment.

The United States does not have an extradition treaty with Russia, but officials have said that taking steps such as charges and imposing sanctions can be a deterrent. People also sometimes slip up and travel to a country that is able and willing to transfer them to the United States for prosecution.

Yahoo reported the 2014 hack last fall – in what was then considered the largest data breach in history. The company later disclosed another intrusion affecting more than 1 billion user accounts in 2013, far surpassing the 2014 event. Officials have not determined whether there is a link between the two.

The twin hacks clouded the prospects for the sale of Yahoo’s core business to telecommunications giant Verizon. The deal is proceeding after Verizon negotiated the price down in the wake of the breaches.

The compromised accounts may have affected more than just email. Breaking into a Yahoo account would give the hackers access to users’ activity on Flickr, Tumblr, fantasy sports and other Yahoo applications.

In the 2014 hack, the FSB – Russia’s Federal Security Service, and a successor to the KGB – sought the information for intelligence purposes, targeting journalists, dissidents and U.S. government officials, but allowed the criminal hackers to use the email cache for the officials’ and the hackers’ financial gain, through spamming and other operations.

The charges “illustrate the murky world of Russian intel services using criminal hackers in a wide variety of ways,” said Milan Patel, a former FBI Cyber Division supervisory special agent who is now a managing director at K2 Intelligence, a cyber firm.

Although FBI agents have long suspected that the Russians have used cyber mercenaries to do their work, this case is among the first in which evidence is offered to show that.

The indicted FSB officers are Dmitry Dokuchaev and Igor Sushchin, his superior. Particularly galling to U.S. officials is that the men worked for the cyber investigative arm of the FSB – a rough equivalent of the FBI’s Cyber Division. That the agency that is supposed to investigate computer intrusions Russia is itself engaged in hacking is “pretty sad,” one official said.

Dokuchaev, whose hacker alias was “Forb,” was arrested in December in Moscow, according to the news agency Interfax, on charges of state treason for passing information to the CIA. He had reportedly agreed to work for the FSB to avoid prosecution for bank card fraud.

Another man indicted in the case is Alexsey Belan, who is on the list of most-wanted cyber criminals and has been charged twice before, in connection with intrusions into three major tech firms in Nevada and California in 2012 and 2013. He was in custody in Greece for a time, but made his way back to Russia, where he is being protected by authorities, officials said.

The other hacker-for-hire is Karim Baratov, who was born in Kazakhstan but has Canadian citizenship. He was arrested in Canada on Tuesday.

The indictments grew out of a nearly two-year investigation by the San Francisco FBI with the aid of international law enforcement, officials said. Sanctions and criminal charges are two tools that the Obama administration began using to punish and deter nation state hackers.

https://www.washingtonpost.com/world/national-security/justice-department-charging-russian-spies-and-criminal-hackers-for-yahoo-intrusion/2017/03/15/64b98e32-0911-11e7-93dc-00f9bdd74ed1_story.html?utm_term=.1b2fd4526c23

Turkey criticises Merkel reaction to cancelled Erdogan rallies

March 4, 2017

AFP

© AFP/File | Germany’s Prime Minister Angela Merkel is currently on an official visit to Tunisia
ANKARA (AFP) – Turkey hit back at German Chancellor Angela Merkel on Saturday for not criticising the decision by authorities in Germany to ban rallies in support of expanding President Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s powers.

Ankara and Berlin have been locked in acrimony over the last few days after German towns blocked events where Turkish ministers sought to address Turks living there about the April 16 referendum.

Turkish voters will be asked whether to approve constitutional changes to create an executive presidency giving more power to the head of state.

“Mrs Merkel says they (the Germans) respect freedom of expression; the foreign minister says we have no impact on this decision, but if you look carefully at both, they do not criticise the decision” of the German towns, Turkish Justice Minister Bekir Bozdag said.

“They do not say the decision taken by the authorities is wrong,” the minister added, speaking to reporters in the central province of Yozgat.

Merkel said on Friday that the decision was “taken by municipalities, and as a matter of principle, we apply freedom of expression in Germany”.

In the run-up to next month’s referendum, trips by Turkish politicians to Germany have come under heavy criticism as the government seeks a “Yes” vote from the huge community of Turkish expatriates.

Bozdag was due to speak at a rally on Thursday in Gaggenau in western Germany but it was cancelled, while Cologne city authorities also withdrew permission for a hall to be used for a speech by Turkish Economy Minister Nihat Zeybekci.

A third town, Frechen on the outskirts of Cologne, scrapped a rally that had been scheduled for Sunday. .

“I ask, not allowing the Turkish justice minister to speak, does it adhere or not to German human rights, Mrs Merkel?” Bozdag asked.

The turmoil in relations between the two countries has been ongoing since Germany criticised the largescale crackdown on suspected coup-plotters and those alleged to have links to Kurdish militants following last July’s failed coup.

And ties have worsened following the formal arrest of Turkish-German Die Welt journalist Deniz Yucel on Monday who is accused of “terrorist propaganda”.

Referring to Germany’s elections later this year, Bozdag invited German politicians to come to Turkey to campaign in front of their citizens “wherever they wanted”.

Turkish pre-vote rallies have also come under scrutiny in the Netherlands where Dutch premier Mark Rutte said a planned pro-Erdogan rally in Rotterdam on March 11 would be “undesirable”

When asked about Rutte’s comments, Bozdag said politicians in Europe were being anti-Turkey in their quest for votes ahead of elections — the Dutch vote on March 15 — which he said was a “big mistake”.

The justice minister accused “several” European Union countries of being against changing Turkey’s governing system because they did not want it to be a strong and stable nation.

Related:

Turkey Not Intimidated By Germany — Germans say Turkey will turn into a full-blown dictatorship

March 3, 2017

Ankara has condemned Germany and threatened retaliation in a row between the two countries. Turkey’s foreign minister said Germany applies double standards to his country and wants to thwart a constitutional referendum.

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Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu accused Germany of double standards on Friday after a southern German town did not allow its justice minister to attend a meeting and give a campaign speech.

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Cavusoglu said Ankara would not be “intimidated.”

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Justice Minister Bekir Bozdag was scheduled on Thursday to speak to supporters of Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan to rally support behind an April referendum to dramatically expand the powers of the presidency. Germany’s Foreign Ministry said on Friday it was not involved in the decision to cancel the speech, adding that it was reached by local authorities.

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A bomb threat was phoned in to the Gaggenau town hall on Friday after the canceled speech. Police did not find any explosives in their search of the building.

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Gaggenau bans Turkish minister from campaign rally

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Cavusoglu criticized officials in Gaggenau who denied permission on technical grounds, suggesting that the decision was a “systematic practice of the German deep state” to weaken Turkey. The deep state is a reference usually associated with Turkey to describe a shadowy network within the military and bureaucracy that acts as a state within the state.

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“They don’t want Turkey to campaign because they are working for a ‘No’ vote [in the referendum], because they want to undermine a powerful Turkey,” Cavusoglu told reporters. Germany is home to some 3 million people of Turkish origin, about half of whom can cast a ballot in April.

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Speaking on Friday, Bozdag described the cancellation “in the truest sense of the word a fascist approach.”

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Cavusoglu said Germany “gives lectures on democracy,” but then implements double standards on freedom of speech and assembly. He accused Germany of allowing the outlawed Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK) to organize in Germany, referencing a Kurdish rally last year in Cologne.

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Cavusoglu said Germany doesn’t practice what it preaches when it comes to freedom of speech

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But he said nearly a week before the Kurdish rally, the elected president of Turkey was blocked from giving a live video speech at an anti-coup rally of government supporters.

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“Giving permission to terrorists and not giving permission to our president and ministers shows Europe’s double standards,” Cavusoglu said.

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“If you want to continue relations, you [Germany] need to learn how to behave towards us. We will respond without hesitation,” he said without providing details on what actions Ankara might take.

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Cavusoglu’s comments reflect a broader deterioration in relations between Ankara and Berlin, impacted most recently by the arrest on Monday of Deniz Yucel, the Turkish-German “Die Welt” correspondent. He faces up to several years in prison if convicted on “terrorism” charges.

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Turkey responded to the withdrawal of permission for Bozdag to speak by canceling a meeting with Germany’s justice minister, in which Yucel’s case was to be a prominent issue. On Thursday, Turkey summoned Germany’s ambassador to Ankara to the foreign ministry.

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“Deniz Yucel is a fighter”

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“German officials say that when Turkish ministers come to Germany they must speak with their counterparts. If you want to meet with Turkish ministers, you will request the meeting like a man and we will gladly meet with you. But with such force and demands we will not meet,” Cavusoglu said.

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The city of Cologne also blocked an event where Turkish Economy Minister Nihat Zeybecki was to campaign on Sunday, citing security concerns.

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Relations between Berlin and Ankara soured last year after the German parliament passed a resolution recognizing the Armenian genocide. Ties took another downward turn in the wake of the failed July coup attempt. Ankara accused Germany of failing to condemn the putschists.

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Erdogan has used post-coup emergency powers to carry out a massive purge targeting tens of thousands of people, journalists and the Kurdish opposition, drawing criticism from Europe.

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The opposition in Turkey has warned if April’s referendum passes Turkey will turn into a full-blown dictatorship.

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http://www.dw.com/en/turkish-foreign-minister-accuses-germany-of-double-standards/a-37793744

Related:

Turkey Accuses Germany of working for a ‘No’ vote in a referendum on Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s powers — Bomb threat in Gaggenau sparks German police action

March 3, 2017

AFP

ANKARA (AFP) – Tensions between Turkey and Germany soared Friday as Ankara accused Berlin of working for a ‘No’ vote in a referendum on Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s powers and a German town received a bomb threat after blocking a Turkish rally.

The Turkish public will vote on April 16 on whether to create a presidential system which Ankara says will be like that in France or the United States and ensure political stability.

But critics say the system will further weaken parliament and herald one-man rule by Erdogan, Turkey’s strongman president.

Ahead of the referendum, Turkish politicians’ trips to Germany have sparked controversy, notably a rally by Prime Minister Binali Yildirim in the western city of Oberhausen to garner support for a ‘Yes’ vote.

And on Thursday, several local authorities blocked rallies by two more Turkish ministers, prompting a furious response from Ankara which promptly summoned the German envoy to protest.

“They don’t want Turkey to campaign here, they are working for a ‘No’,” Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu told reporters in the Turkish capital on Friday.

“They want to get in the way of a strong Turkey.”

Vienna has also said it would not allow any campaign-related events.

Tensions with Berlin have also increased over Ankara’s provisional detention of a German journalist on terror-related charges on Monday.

– Bomb threat –

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As the political fallout continued, the western German town of Gaggenau which cancelled a rally by Turkish Justice Minister Bekir Bozdag said it received a bomb threat early Friday.

“The caller cited the cancellation of the event with the Turkish justice minister as a reason,” local official Dieter Spannagel told AFP.

Bozdag had been due to meet the Turkish community there on Thursday, but cancelled his address after the Gaggenau authorities withdrew their consent, citing capacity problems at the hall that was to have been used.

Cologne city authorities also withdrew permission for the Union of European Turkish Democrats to use a hall on Sunday for a speech by Economy Minister Nihat Zeybekci.

Writing on Twitter, Turkey’s EU Minister Omer Celik said Germany was damaging “the bridges between the democracies and building ideological Berlin walls that cut people off from each other.”

And Cavusoglu accused German officials of double standards and failing to “honour democracy, freedom of expression or freedom of assembly”.

Lashing out, he accused them of allowing “terrorists” from the outlawed Kurdistan Workers’ Party to speak but denying the same right to Erdogan.

– ‘Learn how to behave’ –

Previous tensions have erupted over German criticism of Turkey’s crackdown following last year’s failed coup which has seen more than 100,000 people arrested, dismissed or sacked for alleged links to the plotters or to Kurdish militants.

On Monday, tempers flared again after Deniz Yucel, 43, a correspondent for Germany’s Die Welt daily, was charged with spreading terrorist propaganda and inciting hatred by an Istanbul court.

A dual national, he has been held in prison since February 18, with Germany’s Vice Chancellor Sigmar Gabriel saying the case would make “everything harder” for Turkish-German relations.

After Thursday’s developments, an irate Cavusoglu warned Germany, which is facing elections later this year, it would “need to learn how to behave towards Turkey” if Berlin wanted to maintain ties.

“You must see us as an equal partner,” he said.

Germany is home to the biggest population of Turks outside Turkey with around three million in the country of Turkish origin, the legacy of a massive “guest worker” programme in the 1960s-70s.

by Raziye AKKOC
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German local authorities halt pro-Erdogan rallies — Adding to simmering tensions between Turkey and Germany

March 2, 2017

AFP

© AFP/File | The German town of Oberhausen recently held a rally to promote the April 16 referendum, which aims to discard the post of prime minister in Turkey
BERLIN (AFP) – German local authorities on Thursday blocked rallies by Turkish ministers aimed at promoting a referendum that would expand President Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s powers, citing capacity problems.

The Union of European Turkish Democrats had been due to hold one rally later Thursday in the western town of Gaggenau, with Turkey’s Justice Minister Bekir Bozdag as the guest speaker.

But Gaggenau authorities withdrew an earlier agreement for the group to rent a hall for the event, saying it did not have the capacity to host so many people.

“Because the event is now known across the region, the city expects a large number of visitors. However, the Bad Rotenfels hall, parking lots and access road are insufficient to meet that demand,” the town’s authorities said in a statement.

“Due to these reasons, the hall rental agreement with the UETD has been revoked,” it added.

Separately, Cologne city authorities said they would no longer allow the UETD to use a hall on Sunday, when Turkish Economy Minister Nihat Zeybekci is expected to make a rally speech.

“The event can and will not happen there,” a spokeswoman for Cologne city authorities told AFP.

It was unclear if Zeybekci would be able to find an alternative site.

The UETD had earlier reserved a room in the city hall of the Cologne-Porz district for a “theatre event”, said the spokeswoman.

But on Wednesday, the group said it would now host an “information event”.

The city said however that it would no longer make the site available to the group, citing difficulties in guaranteeing security at such short notice.

Turkish politicians including Prime Minister Binali Yildirim have sparked controversy over their visits to Germany to hold political rallies.

Germany is home to about three million people of Turkish origin, the legacy of a massive “guest worker” programme in the 1960s and 70s and the biggest population of Turks in the world outside of Turkey.

And Erdogan’s government is keen to harness their votes for the April 16 referendum, which would discard the post of prime minister for the first time in Turkey’s history.

Critics say the new presidential system will cement one-man rule in the country.

Berlin-Ankara relations have been strained by a series of disputes since the failed coup that aimed to oust Erdogan last July.

The latest issue dogging ties is Ankara’s provisional detention of a German journalist on terrorism-related charges.

Deniz Yucel, 43, a correspondent of the German newspaper Die Welt, has been held since February 18 in connection with news reports on an attack by hackers against the email account of Turkey’s energy minister.

Berlin’s sharp criticism of Ankara’s massive crackdown after the failed putsch has also irked Turkey.

Russia’s Soft Power Targets The West — Taking Advantage of New Trump Administration, Elections Amid Discord in Europe

February 28, 2017

Hackers, fake news, freaks, trolls and pranksters are Russia’s new soft power weapon arsenal.

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Russia’s new information warfare is more powerful and effective than Soviet propaganda, writes Dobrokhotov [Patrick Lux/Getty Images]
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Russia’s Soft Power Targets The West — Taking Advantage of New Trump Administration, Elections Amid Discord in Europe
By 

@dobrokhotov

Roman Dobrokhotov is a Moscow-based journalist and civil activist. He is the editor-in-chief of The Insider.

Russia has been making the headlines of international media for a while now. But none of that had to do with a strong economy or a powerful army because Russia simply doesn’t have either. Instead, it has learned to interfere through other means in the politics, media, elections and national security of other countries.

The United States still cannot get over the Russian interference in last year’s presidential elections, while European countries are terrified at the prospect of something like that happening to them this year.

The new methods of Russian influence are well-known, but it seems that Western countries have turned out to be unprepared for them.

Hackers 

In the coming months, a whole bunch of European countries will be having elections: in March, the Netherlands; in April, France; in September, Germany and Norway; and perhaps early elections in Italy. And all of these countries without exception have already complained about attacks by Russian hackers.

In France, they attacked Emmanuel Macron, the main opponent to far-right leader Marine Le Pen, who insists on the revoking of sanctions on Russia.

In Germany, they attacked Angela Merkel, a big critic of the Kremlin. In Italy, reportedly, the foreign ministry and armed forces suffered attacks.

In Norway, Russian connection was discovered in a phishing attack on a police station and a host of government officials. In the Netherlands, after many attacks by Russian hackers on government servers, it was decided that votes will be counted by hand.

And these are not all the incidents by far. International media has focused on the scandal with Russian hackers in the US, but actually there isn’t a western country that has not faced cyberattacks from Russia.

The United Kingdom recently complained about the increase in Russian hackers’ activity, while cyberattacks were also reported by Turkey, the Baltic countries, Ukraine, Georgia, Poland, the Czech Republic, Bulgaria, Finland, Sweden and many others.

In Russia, there are two major Kremlin-sponsored hacker groups: Fancy Bear (APT 28) and Cozy Bear (APT 29). They use similar methods and both have a big budget, state of the art equipment and a wide network of employees working every day.

READ MORE: Donald Trump: Russian hacking had ‘no effect’ on vote

They know well which politicians, officials and journalists they should attack and who to send the obtained compromising information to. It is known that one of these groups Fancy Bear also attacked Russian opposition activists inside the country and enemies of the Kremlin abroad, including the Democratic Party in the US.

This has been confirmed by at least four independent cybersecurity organisations which analysed the phishing emails used in the attacks. Given the objects of these attacks, it’s not difficult to guess who stands behind Fancy Bear.

Even Al Jazeera’s website suffered an attack by Fancy Bear. Clearly, the Kremlin has not limited its cyber-warfare to the West.

Fake news

Cyberattacks are not the only tactic the Kremlin has used trying to boost its political influence abroad. Another fashionable tool these days is fake news.

Spreading disinformation was a favourite KGB tool in Soviet times, but now in the Facebook era, old methods are being used on a new level.

All around the world there are enough people who are earnestly ready to share news in social networks. According to a BuzzFeed investigation, if one is to judge by the number of shares, the 20 most popular fake news about the elections in the US turned out to be more popular than the 20 most popular real news.

OPINION: Mr Trump, meet Bond, James Bond – From Russia with love

A separate role is played by the Russian diaspora, a significant part of which watches mainly Russian TV channels. This is quite a big problem for countries where Russian speakers are a significant part of the population – countries of the former Soviet Union.

But in recent times, it has also become a problem for Western Europe, where the diaspora, too, has become an active object of Russian state influence.

For example, some of the demonstrations of the marginal nationalist movement Patriotic Europeans Against the Islamisation of the West (Pegida) in Germany were organised by representatives of Russian diaspora organisations, which are funded by the Kremlin; speeches at some of these rallies would be given in Russian.

Fake news broadcast by Russia One channel about a Russian girl who was raped by migrants was used as an excuse for one of these rallies. The news of course was widely shared within the Russian diaspora.

Freaks

Pegida is only one example of the tens of marginal political parties and movements which the Kremlin supports in different countries and more often than not these are ultra-right, anti-globalisation, and separatist movements.

Every year, the Kremlin organises a major get-together for these movements in Moscow and sometimes in other countries. Within the network of Russian influence, there are also members of parliament, even if not that prominent, of some major parties.

Some of them will attend big Kremlin-sponsored forums in exchange for a serious honorarium and when needed will make the necessary statements about, for example, the Crimea referendum being transparent and free.

The world economy survived Trump and Brexit but if Europe is hit by another wave of protectionism and nationalism as happened after World War I, the consequences of that would be so grave that it would put the survival of the Russian state under question.

At first glance, it seems that the support of local freaks is simply a waste of money. But it can be seen as a venture capital investment. Most of the supported projects will fail, but there is a possibility that some of them might take off.

Sometimes marginal politicians such as Marine Le Pen, who received a loan from a Russian bank turn into political heavyweights.

Donald Trump was seen for a long time as marginal and an outsider and, if the rumours about his ties to the Kremlin are confirmed, then certainly he would be the most successful of all Russian venture capital investments.

Trolls

Another player in Russia’s cyberwars are the trolls who try to simulate societal reactions and undertake the vicious persecution of targeted individuals on social networks and in the comment sections of foreign media outlets.

А sizeable troll office is located on Savushkina Street in St Petersburg, where employees work a full work day and receive $500.

There are also other troll factories, including one in Moscow which specialises in spamming outlets such as Fox News, CNN, BBC, the Huffington Post and others.

Usually a troll’s account is easy to recognise: it is either empty of content, or is filled with reposts. Even if trolls don’t succeed in convincing their victims that they are real, they still manage to interfere with attempts to have a normal discussion with an audience. Because of trolling, many media organisations have been forced to drop comment sections from their websites.

Pranksters

One of the latest inventions of Russian propaganda are the Kremlin’s pranksters. A prime time show on Russian One channel had pranksters call high-level politicians – such as former Georgian President Mikheil Saakashvili, Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko and US Senator John McCain – using a variety of pretexts to try to provoke them into saying something not politically correct.

The task – if not to discredit – is at least to poke fun of the politicians who don’t have good relations with the Kremlin. In a time when, on Russian state TV, one cannot even sneeze without the permission of the censor, it is not difficult to guess the motivation behind having such a show.

Soft power v propaganda

Russia’s new information warfare is more powerful and effective than Soviet propaganda. But no matter how inventive Moscow is in using new technologies for information warfare, it still has the same vulnerability which led to the dissolution of the Soviet Union – propaganda is useless if it is not backed with soft power, or the power of being a model nation.

Hackers and trolls might help you discredit the opponent, but they cannot create a positive image of your country, when it is a poor, unfree state with rampant corruption, backward education and a weak healthcare system.

Yes, Russia is a serious threat to the West in the sense that it can encourage the growth of the ultra-conservative and populist forces, pushing for disintegration and nationalism – all this might affect negatively economic growth and security. But the problem is that Moscow does not really get anything out of it.

OPINION: The inevitable Trumputin divorce

The children of US officials don’t go to study in Moscow University; Swiss businessmen are not depositing their money in Russian banks; Germans are not buying Russian cars.

Paradoxically, Russia will be the first to suffer from the weakening of the West. In a time of crisis, investors will first withdraw their money from unstable developing markets, including Russia.

The world economy survived Trump and Brexit but if Europe is hit by another wave of protectionism and nationalism as happened after World War I, the consequences of that would be so grave that it would put the survival of the Russian state under question.

Roman Dobrokhotov is a Moscow-based journalist and civil activist. He is the editor-in-chief of The Insider.

The views expressed in this article are the author’s own and do not necessarily reflect Al Jazeera’s editorial policy.

 Politics Science & Technology

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http://www.aljazeera.com/indepth/opinion/2017/02/russia-soft-warfare-cyberwar-hackers-fake-news-170227070148722.html
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Russia Looks to Exploit White House ‘Turbulence,’ Analysts Say

MOSCOW — The Kremlin, increasingly convinced that President Trump will not fundamentally change relations with Russia, is instead seeking to bolster its global influence by exploiting what it considers weakness in Washington, according to political advisers, diplomats, journalists and other analysts.

Russia has continued to test the United States on the military front, with fighter jets flying close to an American warship in the Black Sea this month and a Russian naval vessel steaming conspicuously in the Atlantic off the coast of Delaware.

“They think he is unstable, that he can be manipulated, that he is authoritarian and a person without a team,” Alexei A. Venediktov, the editor in chief of Echo of Moscow, a liberal radio station, said of President Trump.

The Russian president, Vladimir V. Putin, has long sought to crack the liberal Western order, both as a competitor and as a champion of an alternative, illiberal model. To that end, he did what he could to buttress the electoral chances of Mr. Trump, who seemed like a kindred spirit with his harsh denunciations of NATO and the European Union, his endorsement of the British withdrawal from the European Union and his repeated shrugs over Russia’s destabilizing Ukraine.

Source: https://www.nytimes.com/2017/02/27/world/europe/russia-looks-to-exploit-white-house-turbulence-analysts-say.html?_r=0