November 2012: Clinton’s private email account is reconfigured to use Google’s servers as a backup in case her personal server fails.

Clinton checks her phone with Assistant Secretary of State for European Affairs Philip Gordon in Munich, Germany, on February 4, 2012. (Credit: Politico)

Clinton checks her phone with Assistant Secretary of State for European Affairs Philip Gordon in Munich, Germany, on February 4, 2012. (Credit: Politico)

This is according to Internet records; it is likely in response to the server crashing for several days after Hurricane Sandy one month earlier. The choice of Google is curious because Clinton herself claimed that in June 2011, the Chinese government tried to break into the Google email accounts of senior US government officials. (The Associated Press, 3/4/2015)

May 15, 2015: Dozens of media organizations and journalists have donated to the Clinton Foundation.

Carlos Slim (Credit: ABC News)

Carlos Slim (Credit: ABC News)

The foundation’s records show that there are not many news outlets who would report on the foundation and didn’t donate some money to it. The following have given at least $1 million:

  • Carlos Slim, the Mexican multibillionaire who is also the largest New York Times shareholder.
  • James Murdoch, the chief operating officer of 21st Century Fox, and the son of media mogul Rupert Murdoch.
  • Newsmax Media, the conservative media outlet.
  • Thomson Reuters, the owner of the Reuters news service.

Others to donate smaller amounts include Google, Bloomberg, Richard Mellon Scaife, Mort Zuckerman, AOL, HBO, Viacom, Turner Broadcasting (CNN), Twitter, Comcast, NBC Universal, PBS, the Washington Post, and many more. (Politico, 5/15/2015)

October 2015—Mid-May 2016: Hackers, alleged to be Russian, target almost 4,000 Google accounts related to US politics.

Center for American Progress logo (Credit: public domain)

Center for American Progress logo (Credit: public domain)

According to a June 17, 2016 Bloomberg News article, during this time period, the same allegedly Russian hackers who breach the computers of the DNC [Democratic National Committee] and Clinton’s presidential campaign “[burrow] much further into the US political system, sweeping in law firms, lobbyists, consultants, foundations, and the policy groups known as think tanks, according to a person familiar with investigations of the attacks.” Almost 4,000 Google accounts are targeted by “spear phishing,” which involves tricking targets to give log-in information so their data can be accessed. The Center for American Progress, a think tank with ties to Clinton and the Obama administration, is one known target.

Bloomberg News will further report that, “Based on data now being analyzed, various security researchers believe the campaign stems from hackers linked to Russian intelligence services and has been broadly successful, extracting reams of reports, policy papers, correspondence and other information.”

The Russian government denies any involvement, but cybersecurity experts who have investigated the attacks believe the hackers are working for Russia. It is believed that either or both of two major Russian hacking groups, Fancy Bear (or APT 28) and Cozy Bear (or APT 29) are behind the attacks. (Bloomberg News, 6/17/2016)

March 2016: The same hacking group that allegedly breaches the DNC [Democratic National Committee] computer network may also breach computers of some Clinton presidential campaign staffers.

Clinton's Deputy Communications Director, Kristina Schake (Credit: Getty Images)

Clinton’s Deputy Communications Director, Kristina Schake (Credit: Getty Images)

The hacker or hacking group is known by the nickname Fancy Bear, and is alleged to be working for the Russian government. Fancy Bear gets into the DNC network in April 2016, which makes it separate from the efforts of Cozy Bear (alleged also to be linked to Russia) or Guccifer 2.0 (alleged to be a “lone hacker”) which in either case got into the network for about a year. Fancy Bear’s attack on Clinton’s staffers is said to start in March 2016, according to the security firm SecureWorks. Targets include Clinton’s communications and travel organizers, speechwriters, policy advisers, and campaign finance managers.

The hackers use the “spear phishing” technique of sending an email from a seemingly trusted source in order to get the target to click on a link. In this case, the links are shortened by an Internet service known as Bitly to make it hard to notice that they’re bogus. They take the target to a fake Google login page, since most or all of Clinton’s staffers use Gmail. Once the target gives their user name and password, the hacker can log into the real account and access all the data. The hackers create 213 links targeting 108 hillaryclinton.com addresses. Twenty of those are clicked, raising the possibility that some accounts are successfully breached. (Forbes, 6/16/2016)

August 23, 2016: US officials believe hackers have been targeting the New York Times and other US news outlets, and the Russian government might be responsible.

Cyber attacks on such media organizations have been “detected in recent months,” and are being investigated by the FBI and other US agencies. CNN reports, “Investigators so far believe that Russian intelligence is likely behind the attacks and that Russian hackers are targeting news organizations as part of a broader series of hacks that also have focused on Democratic Party organizations,” according to unnamed US officials.

Little has been publicly revealed about the media attacks except for the attacks on the New York Times. The Times says their email services are outsourced to Google and they have no evidence that their computer networks have been compromised. CNN claims that individual reporters have been targeted, not entire networks, but it is unclear how many were targeted or how many had their email accounts breached.

CNN further reports, “US intelligence officials believe the picture emerging from the series of recent intrusions is that Russian spy agencies are using a wave of cyber attacks, including against think-tanks in Washington, to gather intelligence from a broad array of non-governmental organizations with windows into the US political system. News organizations are considered top targets because they can yield valuable intelligence on reporter contacts in the government, as well as communications and unpublished works with sensitive information…” (CNN, 8/23/2016)

The Associated Press is less definitive about who might be responsible, saying that an unnamed US official claims the FBI is looking into whether Russian intelligence agencies are responsible for the hacking attempts. (The Associated Press, 8/23/2016)

October 4, 2016: WikiLeaks leader Julian Assange promises to release “significant material” over the next ten weeks, with the US presidential election four weeks away.

WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange participates via video link at a news conference marking the 10th anniversary

Julian Assange speaks via video link at a news conference marking the 10th anniversary of Wikileaks, on October 4, 2016. (Credit: Wikileaks)

Speaking via a video link to mark a decade since the founding of WikiLeaks, Assange says, “We hope to be publishing every week for the next ten weeks. We have on schedule, and it’s a very hard schedule, all the US election-related documents to come out before [the US presidential election on] November 8. … Our upcoming series includes significant material on war, arms, oil, Google, the US elections, and myself.”

He also dismisses speculation that releases related to US election would contain information intended to damage the presidential candidacy of Clinton. The idea that “we intend to harm Hillary Clinton, or I intend to harm Hillary Clinton, or I don’t like Hillary Clinton, all those are false.”

Assange’s comments are seen as a disappointment by many of WikiLeaks supporters who are hoping for the immediate release of more politically important material. (The New York Times, 10/4/2016) However, just three days later, WikiLeaks begins releasing emails belonging to John Podesta, Clinton’s campaign manager.