Former Marine Who Proved Russia Hacked DNC Emails is Speaking Out

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By Debbie Gregory.

When former Marine Capt. Robert Johnston chose computer science as his major at the Naval Academy in Annapolis, Maryland, he had no idea how that decision would impact our nation.

During his service in the Marine Corps, Johnson directed the Marine Corps Red Team, which tries to hack into the Corps computers to test its defenses. As a civilian, Johnson led the private security team that investigated the hacking of the Democratic National Committee’s (DNC) servers, coming to the conclusion that Russian intelligence was indeed responsible.

In 2015, Johnston was leading newly formed Cyber Protection Team 81, based in Fort Meade, Maryland, as part of the military’s Cyber Command (Cybercom) when a malware attack against the Pentagon had reached the unclassified computers of the Joint Chiefs of Staff. Johnston helped the Joint Chiefs firm up security measures.

He left the Marine Corps in November 2015, and signed up to work for CrowdStrike, a well-known cyberprotection company.

In April, 2016, the DNC IT department became convinced that there was a hacking problem, and they called CrowdStrike.

Johnston found that their computer systems had been fully compromised by two attacks. Malware from the first attack had been festering in the DNC’s system for a whole year. The second infiltration was only a couple of months old. Both sets of malware were associated with Russian intelligence.

CrowdStrike and the DNC gave the story to the Washington Post, and on June 14, 2016, the Post published the story: “Russian government hackers penetrated DNC, stole opposition research on Trump.”

In retrospect, Johnston thinks the Washington Post story accelerated the hackers’ timeline.

“I believe now that they were intending to release the information in late October or a week before the election,” Johnson said. “But then they realized that we discovered who they were. I don’t think the Russian intelligence services were expecting it, expecting a statement and an article that pointed the finger at them.”

In July 2016, WikiLeaks began to release thousands of emails hacked from the DNC server. Johnson’s analysis laid the groundwork for what would eventually lead to the investigation of Russia’s intervention into the U.S. presidential election.

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USCYBERCOM Gets Wartime Assignment


By Debbie Gregory.

The Defense Department’s United States Cyber Command (USCYBERCOM), the military arm of the government’s efforts in cyberspace, has received its first wartime assignment in the fight against the Islamic State. This increases the need for those trained in high tech jobs for military.

USCYBERCOM is an armed forces sub-unified command subordinate to United States Strategic Command. Founded in 2009, the command is located in Fort Meade, Maryland, and centralizes command of cyberspace operations, organizes existing cyber resources and synchronizes defense of U.S. military networks.

The Pentagon has just announced that the previous commander of the Cyber National Mission Force, Maj. Gen. George J. Franz III, is heading back to Cyber Command, where he will be director of operations. His return comes at a time when the command is stepping up efforts to hack the Islamic State terrorist group in Iraq and Syria. His previous battlefield experience in Iraq and Afghanistan could come in handy in that regard.

Defense Secretary Ashton Carter said, “I have given the Cyber Command in the counter-ISIL fight really its first wartime assignment.” ISIL is another name for the group known as the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria, or ISIS.

Adm. Michael Rogers, the head of USCYBERCOM and director of the National Security Agency, said terrorists using cyberattacks to inflict damage on the U.S. and other nations was among his top concerns. The command has set three missions for itself that will lead to success in cyber operations: ensure DoD mission assurance, deter or defeat strategic threats to U.S. interests and infrastructure, and achieve Joint Force Commander objectives

By 2018, the Pentagon plans to have 133 cyber teams, 27 that are designed for combat to work with regional commands to support war-fighting operations. There will be 68 teams assigned to defend Defense Department networks and systems, 13 that would respond to major cyberattacks against the U.S., and 25 support teams.

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