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Op-ed views and opinions expressed are solely those of the author.
It is no secret that hacking has served a political purpose for years. In fact, according to one of the world’s foremost hacktivists, Wikileaks’ Julian Assange, “Hacktivism is at least as old as October 1989 when the United States Department of Energy (DOE), The Higher Education Protection Network (HEPNET) and the Space Physics Analysis Network (SPAN) connected VMS machines worldwide were penetrated by the anti-nuclear WANK worm.”
In America, Robert Mueller’s investigation into Russian interference during 2016 Presidential Election was centered around the fact that the US intelligence community discovered that in January of 2017, Russian entities engaged in a hacking operation that the left claims swung the election in the favor of our current President, Donald J. Trump. The operation took the form of a spear phishing email campaign that hacked into the servers of the Democratic National Committee (DNC) and the Gmail account of Clinton campaign chair John Podesta.
The stolen emails were then broadcasted to the world via hacktivist group WikiLeaks, in one of the outfits most infamous data dumps. It included a number of eye opening electronic exchanges, some that displayed the racist tendencies of many high-ranking DNC officials.
In 2018, America’s elections went off mostly without a hitch. This was confirmed by from former Director of National Intelligence Dan Coats, as he claimed at the time that US intelligence was not able to find evidence of any breaches against digital voting systems. He did however confirm that the aggressive social media disinformation campaigns that were prevalent in 2016 had continued to occur.
That brings us to 2020 and the major showdown between President Trump and former Vice President Joe Biden that will occur in the shadow of the Coronavirus Pandemic. With this November’s election sure to be different than any previous election as a result of widespread mail-in voting, social distancing at the polls and the potential for many voters to stay home out of fear, the question of election integrity again comes to the forefront as reports show that President Trump himself has been victimized by a recent hacking operation.
The attack, that targeted power entertainment law firm Grubman, Shire, Meiselas and Sacks, netted the hackers 756MB of data, including confidential documents, legal secrets, contracts and personal e-mails related to clients of the firm. That client base includes celebrities like Bruce Springsteen, Elton John, Robert De Niro, Lady Gaga, Madonna, Mariah Carey, U2 and Bette Midler.
By far, the biggest name involved in the attack was President Donald Trump, as the hackers have threatened to reveal what they call “dirty laundry” on President Donald Trump if they are not paid an enormous $42 Million ransom, in full.
The hackers advised the President to “poke a sharp stick at the guys” in order to get the firm to pay. They then addressed voters saying that “we can let you know that after such a publication, you certainly [won’t] want to see him as president.”
To show the parties involved that they are not bluffing, the hackers, collectively known as REvil, released links to three web downloads containing a portion of the stolen information, as well as a password to access them. A statement from the hackers that was published by Forbes reads, the hackers state, “We read the position of the authorities. Declare this an act of terrorism. Your position is your choice. This will not affect our work in any way. It’s just that it can completely erase certain frames that we still observed. But now is not about that. Mr. Lawyer says that Donald has never been their client. And he says that we are bluffing. Oh well. The first part, with the most harmless information, we will post here.”
The first email dump did contain electronic communications related to the President, and true to their word, this first round was harmless. This begs several questions however, like, will the next data drop contain information that is damaging enough to sway voters? Does REvil hold the key to an October surprise that can potentially change the course of American history? Is this hacking group or others like them willing to coordinate with “Never Trump” elements?
Politics has long been a dirty game, where much like Baseball in the so-called “Steroid Era,” participants are willing to do anything to gain an edge. With Democrats still reeling 4 years after the Wikileaks/DNC email scandal, will their attempts at “opposition research” cross the lines of legality and ethics?
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