A cyber research firm believes the same Russian hackers that attacked the Democratic Party’s computer servers are now targeting the U.S. Senate. The firm, Trend Micro Inc, believes the Russian group, known as Fancy Bear to national security professionals, is laying the groundwork for an espionage campaign against the upper chamber of Congress this year.
Feike Hacquebord, a researcher at Trend Micro, says he has discovered a cache of websites that have been built to look like the internal email system of the U.S. Senate. He then traced “digital fingerprints” from those sites to those used almost exclusively by Fancy Bear.
“They’re still very active — in making preparations at least — to influence public opinion again,” Hacquebord said. “They are looking for information they might leak later.”
Hacquebord said that the faux sites are the exact same strategy used to collect emails from Emmanuel Macron’s campaign when he was running for the French presidency last year. Private emails from Macron staffers were published online in the final days of the race.
If the group is targeting the Senate, it would not be the first time. Cyber security firms believe that several senate staffers were targeted in 2015 and 2016.
In addition to the U.S. political system, Fancy Bear also seems to have the Olympics in mind. Trend Micro also says it has detected similar efforts to collect emails from Olympic winter sports federations like the International Ski Federation, the International Ice Hockey Federation and the International Bobsleigh & Skeleton Federation.
The International Olympic Committee is forcing Russian athletes to compete under a neutral flag in the upcoming South Korean Winter Games as fallout from a wide-reaching doping scandal that has resulted in 43 Russian athletes, as well as several Russian officials, banned from the Olympic games for life.
Olympic and doping-related emails from 2016 and 2017 have recently been published online. Nothing groundbreaking was revealed, but their publication was covered extensively by Russian state media. Some believe it was meant as warning to international Olympic officials.