The FBI is believed to be investigating a potential hack of the mobile phones used by officials of the Democratic Party, according to reports. Hackers are believed to have attempted to attack the phones in August. FBI investigators have reportedly requested to examine the phones of a few Democrat officials as part of the probe.
Reuters quoted two unnamed sources with knowledge of the situation as saying that investigators suspect the hand of Russian state-sponsored hackers in this latest cyberthreat. However, it is unclear whether the latest attempt was part of the controversial July DNC (Democratic National Committee) hack or a new one.
Also, there is no information about the number of people targeted or affected in the alleged hack. It is also unclear whether the hackers restricted their targets to members of the Democratic Party or Congress party members were also attacked.
Interim DNC chairwoman Donna Brazile told CNN, "Our struggle with the Russian hackers that we announced in June is ongoing -- as we knew it would be -- and we are choosing not to provide general updates unless personal data or other sensitive information has been accessed or stolen."
As part of the FBI's probe, investigators have approached a select number of Democrats to discuss "imaging" their phones to unearth malicious cyber tools like malware, which would provide further evidence of devices being compromised. Investigators are also looking into whether hackers used stolen data from hacked servers operated by Democratic organisations or leaked staffers' emails to gain access to officials' phones.
Sensitive and personal information may have been stolen
If the hackers were successful in breaking into the devices, a trove of sensitive data could have been accessed and stolen, including emails, call data, text messages and photos. "In a sense, your phone is your office brain," said Bruce Schneier, a cyber security expert with Resilient, an IBM company, which is not involved in the investigation. "It's incredibly intimate. Anything that's on your phone, if your phone is hacked, the hacker can get it."
The suspected attempt is the latest in a string of high-profile cyberattacks that have recently targeted the Democratic Party members, which began with the DNC hack and progressed to affecting the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee (DCCC) .
During the first presidential debate between Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump on Monday, both presidential candidates made comments on cybersecurity, albeit providing very different perspectives. Clinton said that there was "no doubt" that Russia had backed cyberattacks against "all kinds of organizations in our country", even mentioning Russian President Vladimir Putin by name.
Meanwhile, Trump argued that there was no conclusive proof of Russia's involvement in the hacks on Democratic institutions. "She [Clinton] is saying Russia, Russia, Russia. Maybe it was. It could also be China, it could be someone sitting on their bed that weighs 400 pounds. You don't know who broke into DNC," he said.