The 2016 presidential election was finished and called before midnight on November 8th, but you wouldn’t know it from reading the headlines this month. We’re almost three weeks removed from Trump’s inauguration and the nation is still balls-deep in election related controversy. In attempts to make sense of Trump’s upset victory, we’ve had to endure a cacophony of narratives and faux-intellectual explanations to account for the abject failure of the Democratic Party to win a presidential election (again). In no particular order, I’ve seen blame placed on Bernie supporters, the Green Party, the Libertarian Party, voters who stayed home, fake news, millennials, racism, sexism, voter suppression, the electoral college, James Comey, Mercury being in retrograde, Frank Underwood, the Jews, the lost city of Atlantis, and Loki the Trickster God.
After a few weeks however, a clear villain and culprit finally emerged: Those damn vodka-chugging, tracksuit-wearing, steroid-injecting Russians. At some point this year, we collectively agreed to pass the American Boogeyman Baton from ISIS back over to Russia. This might have something to do with the fact that it’s very difficult to be afraid of a blood-and-gore-covered crater in the middle of Mosul. Thanks Peshmerga!
Not to say that Russia is a cuddly care bear on the international stage. It doesn’t require a strong degree in Google-Fu to find evidence of Vladimir Putin and the Russian oligarchy engaging in systemic oppression of its own people, media suppression, threatening the sovereignty of neighboring countries, and just general dickishness. Just ask the people of Aleppo.
It hasn’t helped matters that Donald Trump has his fair share of direct and indirect connections with our rivals from the East. This can be seen through his possible financial ties with Russian investors, a budding internet romance with Putin, and the very apparent connections between Moscow and his future Secretary of State/Exxon CEO/90’s movie villain Rex Tillerson.
All of these factors make Russia a very convenient culprit and scapegoat for the election’s result. I remain skeptical for a few reasons, if you haven’t guessed by now. For example, I’m not sure how those hackers were able to convince Hillary to avoid campaigning in the Rust Belt, but I guess that shows how much I know about computers.
There’s a lot of misinformation and general hysteria surrounding the whole affair so I would like to do my part by demystifying all the techno jargon and booga-booga rhetoric that has gone around in the last few days, especially in light of Obama’s recent “aggressive” actions against the Kremlin that are already filling people with visions of WW3 and mushroom clouds on the horizon. As if this year couldn’t get more stressful.
So: What the hell happened exactly?
The thesis of Obama, the DNC, and the mainstream media’s narrative has been that the Russians “hacked” the election to give Trump the winning edge. Although technically true, it also reeks of political doublespeak. Using the term “hacker” immediately brings to mind dozens of Russian blackhats that possibly look like Chris Hemsworth hunkered down in a bunker somewhere creating fake votes for Trump and deleting legitimate Hillary votes in swing states like Ohio and Pennsylvania. Obviously if that were the case then we would be in for some major shit as a country. It would also kinda takes the piss out of that allegedly über-powerful NSA that Edward Snowden (remember him?) warned us about back in 2013. I mean, if we’re doing some Dark Knight level surveillance on our entire country then surely we would be able to catch something like that, right?
The truth, as usual, is a little less sensational and sexy.
That’s because the root of the entire hack was the leak of the DNC emails in July that essentially revealed the institutional bias against the Bernie Sanders campaign and the various ways in which establishment Democrats were more concerned with giving out party favors to big money donors than actually advancing the will of the people. This was probably not a shock to anyone paying attention (including Bernie Sanders), but it certainly didn’t do the Hillary campaign any favors in changing her reputation as a stooge for Wall Street.
I’m going to make a bold assertion when I say that these revelations may have been detrimental to the Clinton campaign, but they were hardly the deciding factor. It’s very important to remember that there’s nothing new about these “revelations” of interference in the election. Media outlets were reporting the alleged Russian connection all the way back in July.Of course, it might be easy to forget that fact considering the smorgasbord of pussy-grabbing-emails-nasty-woman-wall-building journalistic insanity that characterized the election cycle. Remember my hydra analogy from my last post? Same principle.
It wasn’t until the election was over and we needed someone to blame for the loss that suddenly we became concerned about those damned Russians again. The Kremlin has been denying involvement in the hacks, but Putin also claimed that there was no direct Russian involvement in the annexation of the Crimea so I’ll take that with the same healthy cynicism that I would for a toddler who blames the broken vase on the family dog.
Now, this begs the question, how did the hacks happen in the first place?
Once again, the truth is somewhat boring and conventional. In conjunction with Obama’s actions against Russia yesterday, the FBI and CIA helpfully released a document that illustrates exactly how the Russians were able to worm their way into our tip-top-super-duper-secret-DNC information. In classic form though, the truth is buried in so much techno jargon and HTML speak that it looks like a cross between a laptop’s user manual and your old Myspace layout.
Luckily for you, reader, I’ve studied Shakespeare so I’m hella good at taking archaic terms and reducing them into dumb human speak. Which is exactly what I will do here:
Corbin Reads The CIA Report So You Don’t Have To
The first thing to appreciate about the document is that the case is codenamed “GRIZZLY STEPPE” which adds an extra layer of menace to the entire affair. Not only are these hackers vicious Chris-Hemsworth-lookalikes-in-bunkers, but in my mind they also ride bears down the sides of mountains in their free time.
The first page essentially gives a Sparknotes of the entire document. It can be summed up in the following points.
- This is the first time that the CIA/FBI (their own shorthand is JAR for joint-analysis-report) has officially labeled a cyber-attack as sourced from another national entity (i.e. Russia).
- There are numerous technical indicators that these hackers are Russian in origin.
- The hacks were conducted via a “phishing” campaign which led to a theft of information (i.e. the DNC emails) from government entities.
- Cyber-attacks were also conducted against other various foreign nations.
- Hackers posed as third parties to disguise their identities.
This means that the Tinderbot that is telling you all about her sexy webcam is probably a Russian hacker. Be warned, fellas.
“So wait, Corbin!”, you might be saying, “does this mean that someone in our government fell for a dumb phishing scam and this is how we’re in this mess?”
That’s exactly what I’m saying.
Pages 2 + 3
The next two pages go into the details of how these hackers were able to extrapolate their data and do their evil hacking thing. The report names two specific groups as responsible parties. I will forgo their official names (APT29 and APT28) because they sound like Aphex Twin track titles. Instead we will call them “Happy Gilmore” and “Little Nicky” because this is my website and I can call them whatever the hell I want. According to the document, we were first aware of Happy Gilmore back in 2015 and Little Nicky in 2016.
Happy Gilmore is the shitty malware website generator (CONGRATULATIONS YOU MAY ALREADY BE A WINNER) and Little Nicky is the nasty phisher that makes the “seems legit” websites based off Happy Gilmore’s intelligence that fool people into entering their card information/password/etc. This one-two punch allows them to harvest information from their targets.
In 2015, Happy Gilmore sent out a bogus email with booby-trapped websites that some unnamed dupes in the DNC fell for and ended up getting malware for Christmas. This information was used by Little Nicky a year later to further advance the con and get their marks to surrender their passwords and upgrade their access from “green belt” to “black belt”.
That’s where the information that made up the DNC leak was accessed.
The report goes on to state that Happy Gilmore and Little Nicky have still been conducting operations as recent as this November. Sleep tight.
Page 4 is notable in the sense that it gives a list of users whom the CIA suspect to be perpetrators of the hack. They might also be people who teabagged them in Halo online. It’s hard to tell. There are some pretty sick band names to be found in the list as well, including:
- Crouching Yeti – Almost definitely a math-rock band.
- HAMMERTOSS – Punk as fuck.
- Powershell Backdoor – Grindcore.
- CHOPSTICK – Probably some autotune guy with an 808 and a Casio keyboard.
- SYNful Knock – 80’s hair metal revival band.
Take note, aspiring musicians.
Page 5 – 13
The rest of the report is basically a “how-to-not-get-phished-like-an-idiot” guide. You may want to take heed if you’re secretly holding some government secrets on your laptop, but otherwise it’s better off skipped.
In summation, yeah, America (or at least the DNC) got hacked. Was it the Russians? Probably, but it’s hard to tell. The problem is that this information is coming to us from the CIA, who has a fairly lengthy history of lying to the American people and fixing elections of their own. Don’t forget that banana republic was an invention of the United States before it was a mediocre mall fixture.
The main lesson to take away from this is that it’s all fun and games when we’re running around and manipulating foreign affairs, but we will call down all the fires of Hell if someone pulls that shit on us. Or at least some heavy sanctions, which is the closest that we really get to aggressive action anymore without calling in the drone patrol.
Until next time kiddos. Ciao.