Speed Reads

Hack of War?

Russian hackers are reportedly trying to blackmail liberal groups like the Center for American Progress

Russian hackers are reportedly threatening to expose embarrassing information about liberal groups if they aren't paid as much as $150,000 to keep quiet, Bloomberg reports. At least a dozen such organizations, including the Trump-critical Center for American Progress, have been targeted by the hackers and at least a few of the groups have paid the hush money, people familiar with FBI and private security firm probes revealed.

Some of the hacks look similar to the work of Cozy Bear, a top Russian government group that hacked the Democratic National Committee last year. "Cozy Bear has not been accused of using extortion in the past, though separating government and criminal actors in Russia can be murky as security experts say some people have a foot in both worlds," Bloomberg writes.

The hackers reportedly threatened to expose details such as one non-profit having considered the use of grant money to cover costs for anti-Trump protesters, although evidence that the protesters were ultimately paid is lacking. The Russian hackers have sought their payments in untraceable bitcoins.

"I would be cautious concluding that this has any sort of Russian government backing," said FireEye Inc.'s director of cyber espionage analysis John Hultquist. "Russian government hackers have aggressively targeted think tanks, and even masqueraded as ransomware operations, but it's always possible it is just another shakedown."