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U.S. Senate Targeted By Russian Hackers, Cybersecurity Firm Says

PARIS (CBS News) — The same Russian government-aligned hackers who penetrated the Democratic Party have spent the past few months laying the groundwork for an espionage campaign against the U.S. Senate, a cybersecurity firm said Friday. The revelation suggests the group often nicknamed Fancy Bear, whose hacking campaign dogged the 2016 U.S. electoral contest, is still busy trying to infiltrate the email accounts of America’s political elite.

“They’re still very active — in making preparations at least — to influence public opinion again,” said Feike Hacquebord, a security researcher at Trend Micro Inc., which published the report. “They are looking for information they might leak later.”

The Senate Sergeant at Arms office, which is responsible for Senate security, declined to comment.

Hacquebord said he based his report on the discovery of a clutch of suspicious-looking websites dressed up to look like the U.S. Senate’s internal email system. He then cross-referenced digital fingerprints associated with those sites to ones used almost exclusively by Fancy Bear, which his Tokyo-based firm dubs “Pawn Storm.”

On Trend Micro’s blog, Hacquebord posted images of two credential phishing emails that “targeted specific organizations” in October and November of last year.

“While these emails might not seem to be advanced in nature, we’ve seen that credential loss is often the starting point of further attacks that include stealing sensitive data from email inboxes,” Hacquebord wrote.

Trend Micro previously drew international attention when it used an identical technique to uncover a set of decoy websites apparently set up to harvest emails from the French presidential candidate Emmanuel Macron’s campaign in April 2017. The sites’ discovery was followed two months later by a still-unexplained publication of private emails from several Macron staffers in the final days of the race.

Hacquebord said the rogue Senate sites — which were set up in June and September of 2017 — matched their French counterparts.

Read more and see video, here.