As concerns about cyberattacks grow, hackers are going after Russia wonks.
As Kommersant found out, Robert Otto works in the Bureau of Intelligence and Investigation (part of the US intelligence community), where he heads the division for the analysis of the situation in Russia and Eurasia. Judging by the official information on the website of the State Department, he is engaged in “gathering intelligence and analyzing domestic and foreign policies in Russia, Belarus, Moldova, Ukraine, the Caucasus and Central Asia to ensure US interests in the areas of national security, economic prosperity and the spread of democracy” .
The official involved is in a senior position in the State Department’s Bureau of Intelligence and Research, according to a 2017 department directory. Even though the official’s name is public, Foreign Policy is not identifying him at the department’s request, citing security concerns.
The emails, from a nongovernment account, include personal information.
It should be noted that the anonymous hacker, referred to by the magazine Foreign Policy, the first to report a hack, used similar language when communicating with journalists. The editors also noted that it was not the only addressee of the letter, in which the cybercriminal sent stolen correspondence.
“He’s probably the top intelligence guy in the entire U.S. government on Russia. He knows more than anybody about what’s going on there,” said one source whose correspondence with the official was revealed in the hack.
While it’s unclear whether the hack is an isolated incident or part of a broader campaign, it comes amid a widening investigation into Russian cyberattacks that included interference in the 2016 U.S. presidential election. Those attacks, according to officials and documents, go beyond high-level political operatives and include experts and think tanks, particularly those working on Russia issues.
In addition, Otto watched the activity of Russian politicians and public figures in social networks, both in Facebook and in VKontakte.
Earlier Foreign Policy reported they received letters from a senior State Department official from a hacker under the pseudonym Johnny Walker. The editorial office did not name the official, but said, referring to an anonymous source, that this is the best specialist in Russia in the US administration.
The State Department didn’t confirm the information about the hacking but not denied it as well, while saying that they know about many such cases.