Insights & Analyses

Russian hackers reportedly blackmail US liberal groups, seeking bitcoins to keep secrets

March 6, 2017

Hackers believed to be emanating from Russia have reportedly been targeting left-leaning political activist organizations in the U.S., demanding bitcoins in exchange for keeping their secrets unknown to the general public.

Some of the methods used by the hackers suggest they could be associated with Cozy Bear, a government-sponsored group from Russia, according to Bloomberg. Two targets cited in Monday’s report were the Center for American Progress and Arabella Advisors, both of which were asked to pay ransoms.

It was said that the extortion attempts include samples of sensitive data gathered by hackers as part of their efforts. In one example, a “prominent liberal donor” was said to be inquiring about ways to use grant money to cover costs for anti-Trump protesters.

Demands have ranged from between $30,000 to $150,000, and some groups have paid in hopes that the information won’t be released.

The news comes amid ongoing concerns regarding Russia’s apparent attempts to influence the 2016 presidential election in America, with U.S. intelligence communities concluding that the country sought to sway votes in favor of Donald Trump. Whether or not the government is involved in the latest round of attacks from Russian hackers remains to be determined.

Beyond organizations, the coordinated attacks have also gone after individuals, including those who have worked in Democratic administrations or are linked with left-wing causes. Citing data from cyber security researchers, the report indicated that the personal email accounts of “hundreds of people, including national security experts, military officers and former White House officials” were targeted by Russia’s FSB the day after the U.S. presidential election.