Silhouettes of laptop users are seen next to a screen projection of binary code are seen in this picture illustration taken March 28, 2018. (REUTERS/Dado Ruvic/Illustration)

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - Russian military hackers tried to steal emails from the Ukrainian energy firm where Hunter Biden, the son of Democratic presidential contender Joe Biden, had a seat on the board, a U.S. cybersecurity firm said on Monday.

Energy company Burisma Holdings Ltd was at the center of attempts by U.S. President Donald Trump last July to pressure Ukrainian authorities to announce an investigation into the Bidens for purported corruption, an effort that has led to the Republican being impeached by the U.S. House of Representatives on charges of abuse of power and obstruction of Congress.

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Revelations of an alleged Russian intelligence operation to murder opponents and spread chaos across the European Union were met with a mix of wonder and derision in the intelligence community. Russia's decision to return to formalized violent operations in the West has "proven they can get to anyone," a source told Insider. But in many cases, the Russians' sloppy tradecraft has meant their "secret" operations are almost immediately noticed.

Two current European intelligence officials described the scoop by the New York Times about a unit of Russian military intelligence, commonly called the GRU, tasked with murdering Russia's enemies in Europe and helping sow political and military chaos, as "credible." It's "confirmation of something we have long suspected: There is a plan," one told Insider.

The New York Times piece, which ran Tuesday, used a mix of open-source documentation and intelligence gathered across Europe in the wake of half a dozen killings to determine that many of the international incidents involving Russia involve "Unit 29155" of the GRU, a previously unknown unit. It appears to be specifically tasked with irregular operations directed at Europe, including a failed coup in Montenegro and the attempted poisonings of an arms dealer in Bulgaria and a GRU defector in Salisbury, England.

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The Russians are not the only game in town when it comes to cyberwarfare, Acting Defense Secretary Patrick Shanahan said on Thursday amid revelations in the Mueller report about how Russian intelligence officers interfered with the 2016 presidential election.

Released on Thursday, a redacted copy of the report details how the GRU – Russian military intelligence – broke into government, company, and personal computers to steal a treasure trove of information that was used to smear Hillary Clinton.

But the U.S. government is not helpless against Russian hackers, said Shanahan, who has not read the Mueller report.

"The Russians present a risk," Shanahan told reporters on Thursday. "My job is to manage the risk. We have tremendous capability at Cyber Command and the NSA."

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