The mysterious hacker of the DNC

Illustration by Shutterstock, Elena Scotti/Fusion

Last month, America's top spy chief warned that hackers were targeting the presidential campaigns. That announcement was apparently a movie trailer for this week's release of documents that a hacker says he got from the Democratic National Committee servers, including the party's alleged opposition research on Donald Trump and a purported list of Democratic donors that shows million dollar donations from Steven Spielberg, Morgan Freeman and the heir to the Boar's Head fortune, among others.

The hacker, calling himself Guccifer 2.0, shared his document stash in a Wordpress blog post. You may be thinking, 'Wait. Isn't that the guy who shared George W. Bush's self-portrait with the world and isn't he in jail?' Indeed, there is a Romanian hacker named Marcel Lehel who went by the handle Guccifer who hacked many prominent individuals, but who was caught, pled guilty and is now in Virginia, awaiting his sentence. But this isn't Guccifer, it's Guccifer 2.0, a hacker who appeared out of nowhere to claim credit for hacking the DNC servers after the Washington Post reported that they'd been breached by Russian government-sponsored hackers.


According to Crowdstrike, the security firm hired by the DNC, two separate groups of Russian hackers had been in the DNC's servers for up to a year. "The intruders so thoroughly compromised the DNC’s system that they also were able to read all email and chat traffic," reported The Post.

The Kremlin denied responsibility for the hack. And then, conveniently, Guccifer 2.0 showed up, leaking documents to Gawker and The Smoking Gun, and placing them online. Despite the DNC's claim that no financial, donor or personal information was exposed, the files appear to contain people's cell phone numbers and donation histories, among other information. Guccifer 2.0 claimed sole responsibility for the hack.

"Worldwide known cyber security company CrowdStrike announced that the Democratic National Committee (DNC) servers had been hacked by 'sophisticated' hacker groups," wrote Guccifer 2.0. "I’m very pleased the company appreciated my skills so highly))) But in fact, it was easy, very easy."

Now many in the security community are speculating that Guccifer 2.0, a new hacker with no previous online footprint, is a smokescreen put up by the real (Russian) hackers to create plausible deniability. Dan Goodin of Ars Technica compiled analysis of the metadata of the leaked documents which have clues that lead back to Russia, while Lorenzo Franceschi-Bicchierai talked to security experts who believe all the circumstantial evidence points to Russia.


Meanwhile, the question is how much else Guccifer 2.0 will release to support his claims. "The main part of the papers, thousands of files and mails, I gave to Wikileaks. They will publish them soon," he wrote in his blogpost, a claim that Wikileaks repeated in a tweet though hasn't independently confirmed.


Oh the games that spies play.

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