The FBI was quiet that the threat was Russian espionage when it warned the Democratic National Committee it should watch for unusual network activity last fall, reports say.
Reuters cites anonymous sources that say the FBI left the DNC in the dark as to the actual nature of the threat, even as they asked for more information about the nature of suspected attacks.
“It would have definitely been useful to know,” said Mikko Hypponen, chief research officer at F-Secure, a company that released foundational research into Russian state attacks.
“Most organizations are not able to handle a high-level attacker in house. They would have needed to call in an outside agency to help,” he said.
If the FBI warned the DNC in the fall, it would have been weeks to months after hackers are believed to have breached the party’s servers last summer.
When notified of the attacks, Reuters reports, the DNC network administrators checked network logs for indications of an attacker. That, said Hypponen, is what you would do to find a low-level attacker, one the DNC would have been able to handle without contracting additional help.
The DNC, wrote Reuters, did not find anything in the logs.
Hypponen noted that there were things the DNC could have immediately done to stymie any attacker that may have stopped this attack.
Since it appears that the DNC hackers relied on stolen passwords, the organization could have immediately forced its entire operation to change their passwords.
“It would have been annoying,” said Hypponen, but there is a good chance it could have thwarted the attack.