John Podesta fell for an email phishing scam
John Podesta fell for an email phishing scam. Image credit: US News.

On Sunday, the news giant CNN learned hackers might have gained access to John Podesta’s emails by using a simple phishing attack. Cyber security firms and the U.S. government have confirmed the Russian ‘Fancy Bear’ group is behind the breach.

The findings by CNN come as the latest development in a series of ongoing cyber offensives against the Clinton campaign and the DNC. Most recently, Wikileaks posted thousands of emails from John Podesta, Clinton’s Campaign Chairman.

The leaked emails first started at the beginning of the month, and the last batch hit the web last Friday. The FBI reopened the investigation on Hillary Clinton after finding compromising information among Podesta’s private online correspondence.

What is a phishing attack and how did Podesta fall for it?

Phishing is perhaps one of the most basic methods cybercriminals use to gain access to sensitive information. The word itself is adapted from ‘fishing,’ since that is basically what hackers do when trying this approach.

It consists of sending a request to a user posing as a legitimate site or source. The message tells the user to click on a link or provide personal information, effectively giving hackers access to anything from emails to bank accounts.

John Podesta’s case was no different, according to an email thread unearthed by CNN. A fake Google email back on March 19 asked Podesta to change his password after an alleged attempted breach from Ukraine.

The Clinton Campaign Chair ran the email through its IT team, who confirmed it was legitimate and provided them with a direct, real link from Google to enter a new password.

However, the top Clinton aide clicked on the original link provided by the fake Google message instead of the one sent by his IT crew which gave the hackers access to Podesta’s email.

Who is the ‘Fancy Bear’ hacking group?

According to several cyber security firms in the U.S., the Russian group ‘Fancy Bear’ is the one responsible for the DNC hack.

Cyber security experts were able to tie the Podesta phishing attack to the ‘Fancy Bear’ group thanks to the shortened link they provided on the fake Google email the hackers sent to the executive.

CNN claims ‘Fancy Bear’ is “a nickname for one of the Russian military-intelligence hacking groups that were discovered in the DNC’s servers.” The Russian government has consistently denied any involvement in the cyber attacks.

Wikileaks, on the other hand, won’t provide a source for the leaked Podesta emails, so it remains a possibility the conglomerate is working with Russian agents to uncover schemes of the Clinton Campaign.

According to some sources, the hackers are not done with Clinton. They said more controversial information about the Democrat Candidate was going to be released days before the election day.

Source: CNN