Did Russia Really Hack Hillary Clinton's Campaign Data?

When in doubt, here's what you do in America: Blame the Russians. According to federal law officials, Russians may have hacked into Hillary Clinton's campaign data — a sentence that sounds ridiculous in 2016, but so does "Donald Trump is the Republican presidential nominee." This latest cyber attack on the Democratic Party appears to be the work of Russian intelligence services, who may also be behind the release of thousands of Democratic National Committee emails showing how the committee openly favored Clinton over Sen. Bernie Sanders, as well as a data breach reported by the DNC in June. At least, that's the leading theory.

The FBI said in a statement that it was investigating the cyber attack on the Clinton campaign, but the agency did not yet have confirmation that the attack was linked to Russia. Via NBC News:

The FBI is aware of media reporting on cyber intrusions involving multiple political entities, and is working to determine the accuracy, nature and scope of these matters.

In a statement released Friday, Hillary for America Spokesman Nick Merrill said the recent hack on the Clinton campaign was part of the latest cyber assault on the DNC. The data program that was hacked was maintained by the Democratic National Committee, not the Clinton campaign. Still, the campaign regularly used the program, which reportedly contained financial and voter data information:

An analytics data program maintained by the DNC, and used by our campaign and a number of other entities, was accessed as part of the DNC hack. Our campaign computer system has been under review by outside cyber security experts. To date, they have found no evidence that our internal systems have been compromised.
PATRICK T. FALLON/AFP/Getty Images

So, how are the Russians behind this? A security official told The New York Times that the Clinton campaign hack was connected to "Fancy Bear," a hacking entity that has ties to Russian military intelligence. “It’s the same adversary" of the recent cyber attacks on the DNC, the official told The Times.

The Kremlin, of course, has been denying all of these accusations, including the allegation that Russia is responsible for the nearly 20,000 DNC emails leaked by WikiLeaks last week. On Thursday, a Kremlin spokesperson told reporters that the United States "needs to get to the bottom of what these emails are themselves."

Still, that hasn't stopped media outlets, federal officials and security experts from insinuating that the Russian government is engaging in cyberterrorism. The Aspen Institute Homeland Security Group, which is composed of security and counterterrorism experts, said in a statement earlier this week about Russia's possible involvement with the DNC hacks and WikiLeaks emails:

The facts remain to be conclusively determined, but the investigation of these events should have the highest priority. If true, this is an attack not on one party but on the integrity of American democracy. And it may not be the end of such attacks. It is not unthinkable that those responsible will steal and release more files, and even salt the files they release with plausible forgeries.

Would it really be crazy to think that, decades after the Cold War, the Russian government is still trying to sabotage American politics? Well, Wired reported this week that this wouldn't be the first time in recent memory that the Russian government hacked into American government servers. In 2015, Russian hackers reportedly breached White House servers and accessed unclassified emails from President Obama's Blackberry.