Given the crisis unfolding at the Democratic National Convention after 19,000 Democratic National Committee emails were stolen and published on Wikileaks, Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump had the potential, for the first time, to be temporarily cast in a more professional and legitimate light than Democratic front runner Hillary Clinton.
Instead he opened his mouth, calling on Russian hackers to target Hillary Clinton:
“Russia, if you’re listening, I hope you’ll be able to find the 30,000 emails that are missing,” he said on public television. “I think you will probably be rewarded mightily by our press.”
Since his upteenth political blunder, Trump has since said that his statements at the Wednesday morning press briefing weren’t meant to be taken seriously.
His comments on Wednesday were in response to the widely circulating allegations that the DNC email and voice mail hacks were carried out by state-sponsored Russian cyber criminals. Clinton’s campaign manager even went so far as to accuse the hackers of having done it in an effort to help Trump’s campaign.
Since his statements, officials of Trump’s own party have condemned his apparent encouragement of cyber attacks on American institutions by Russian intelligence. Yuri Melnik, press secretary for the Russian Embassy to the United States, declined to comment on any of the statements made by Trump or other officials and said that he had no knowledge of Trump’s business activities in Russia or anywhere else, for that matter.
“In general, I believe that the Russia-related allegations floating around are completely inadequate and inappropriate,” Melnik stated. “It’s surprising how childish the narrative is.”
Executive Director of the Electronic Privacy Information Center Marc Rotenberg came out in opposition to Trump’s statements, stating himself that “At a time when the U.S. is confronting serious cybersecurity threats from foreign adversaries, the comments of the Republican candidate for President are beyond reckless.”
Many cyber security officials are not prone to taking comments like Trump’s lightly, especially given the string of cyber attacks that have plagued the nation.
Kevin O’Brien, CEO of GreatHorn, said that the breach of even nonclassified emails sent by a former Secretary of State would constitute a major security risk. O’Brien added that Clinton’s deleted emails may not be safe from rediscovery.
“Whether it’s removed from the recipient’s systems and servers has no impact on that data’s continued existence in the myriad systems that it moved through prior to arrival, or was copied to if those systems were themselves compromised,” he explained.
That means that before the deleted emails were deleted, they might have been vulnerable to “direct endpoint compromise” i.e. the server could have been infected with malware that might have made secret copies of the emails before they were deleted. In addition, third-party apps could have been run in conjunction with whatever email transfer agent and server software was being utilized by the state at the time, which would have also compromised the emails.
The FBI has launched investigations into whether Russian cyber criminals could be responsible for the DNC attack. FBI Director James Comey added that the FBI does assess the threat that Clinton’s deleted emails may have been apprehended before their deletion.