Copy of the metadata and the nickname for Felix Dzerzhinsky, written in the Cyrillic alphabet. (Credit: Ars Technica)
On June 15, 2016, someone going by the name “Guccifer 2.0” claimed to be the “lone hacker” behind the breach of the DNC [Democratic National Committee] computer network reported in the media the day before.
However, various clues support the assertion by security experts hired by the DNC that the hacking effort is connected to the Russian government or at least originates from Russia:
- The metadata of one file sent by Guccifer 2.0 to Gawker contains metadata indicating the last person to change the file used the nickname for Felix Dzerzhinsky (Феликс Эдмундович), a long-dead Russian statesman best known for founding the Soviet secret police.
- The nickname is written in the Cyrillic alphabet, which means Guccifer 2.0’s computer was configured to use the Russian language and was connected to a Russian-language keyboard.
- Another file contains some broken web links. The error message is also written in Russian, using the Cyrillic alphabet.
- A blog post written by Guccifer 2.0 uses “)))” to indicate a smiley face. This is common in Eastern Europe and Russia but very uncommon elsewhere, due to differences with the Russian-language keyboard. (Ars Technica, 6/16/2016)
- Other metadata indicates the person who saved the files used a cracked version of Office 2007, which is popular in Russia.
- Vice News reports that Guccifer 2.0 had no online history prior to June 15, and “multiple security sources said they’d never heard of nor seen anyone by that alias” before that date. (Vice News, 6/16/2016)
- Dave Aitel, CEO of Immunity Security, comments, “You don’t have the FBI or DHS [Department of Homeland Security] coming out and saying: ‘Hey we don’t think it’s Russia.’ If it is Russia, a nation state, it’s a pretty big deal. Otherwise the FBI would say: ‘We’re conducting an investigation.’ But they’re not saying that.”
Ars Technica comments, “Of course, it’s still possible that the Russian fingerprints were left intentionally by someone who has no connection to Russia, or by a Russian-speaking person with no connection to the Russian government, or any number of other scenarios.” (Ars Technica, 6/16/2016)