A series of painfully preventable errors committed by the Democratic National Committee and Hillary Clinton's staff led to Russian hackers gaining access to the Democrats' private accounts, possibly costing them the election, The New York Times reports. "What started as an information-gathering operation, intelligence officials believe, ultimately morphed into an effort to harm one candidate, Hillary Clinton, and tip the election to her opponent, Donald J. Trump," the Times writes.
The FBI was aware as early as September 2015 that at least one computer system belonging to the DNC had been compromised. But when FBI agent Adrian Hawkins called the committee's tech-support contractor, Yared Tamene, to inform him of the situation, Tamene did not return Hawkins' calls because "I had no way of differentiating the call I just received from a prank call," he wrote in a memo.
In the spring, a similar communication failure allowed the Russians access to all of John Podesta's emails. Podesta, who was serving as the chairman of the Clinton campaign at the time, received a classic phishing email allegedly from Google telling him his Gmail password was compromised and that he ought to reset it:
Given how many emails Mr. Podesta received through this personal email account, several aides also had access to it, and one of them noticed the warning email, sending it to a computer technician to make sure it was legitimate before anyone clicked on the "change password" button.
"This is a legitimate email," Charles Delavan, a Clinton campaign aide, replied to another of Mr. Podesta's aides, who had noticed the alert. "John needs to change his password immediately."
With another click, a decade of emails that Mr. Podesta maintained in his Gmail account — a total of about 60,000 — were unlocked for the Russian hackers. Mr. Delavan, in an interview, said that his bad advice was a result of a typo: He knew this was a phishing attack, as the campaign was getting dozens of them. He said he had meant to type that it was an "illegitimate" email, an error that he said has plagued him ever since. [The New York Times]
Read more about how the Russians gained access to the DNC's emails — and possibly put their thumb on the scales of the American election — at The New York Times.