Russian hackers posed as ISIS to threaten US soldiers' families: report

Russian hackers posed as ISIS to threaten US soldiers' families: report
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Russian hackers appear to have issued menacing threats to a handful of U.S. soldiers' families while masquerading as Islamic State militants, The Associated Press reported Tuesday.

The news wire reported that it found "evidence" that the same Russian hacking group that sought to interfere in the 2016 presidential election also went after at least five military wives while posing as jihadists.

These women received death threats from a group called the CyberCaliphate, a hacking group that has been previously linked to a well-known and active Russian hacking group known as Fancy Bear and APT28. 

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This same group is also behind a series of high-profile cyberattacks, including the damaging hack that led to the email exchanges of Hillary ClintonHillary Diane Rodham ClintonMemo Comey used to brief Trump on dossier released: report Trump will likely win reelection in 2020 Lanny Davis says Nixon had more respect for the Constitution than Trump MORE's presidential campaign chairman, John Podesta, being publicly exposed during the election.

In threatening military families, CyberCaliphate used the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria flag as part of an effort to cast blame away from themselves and ultimately cover their tracks — a common strategy by illicit cyber operations.

Army wife Angela Ricketts, for example, received a threatening Facebook message from the hackers who claimed they had gained access to her computer and phone. 

"Bloody Valentine's Day," the message received in early February 2015 reportedly read, according to the AP. 

"We know everything about you, your husband and your children," the message continued, adding that they are "much closer than you can even imagine."

News of the threats fueled the news cycle for days with headlines describing the extremists' online messages, according to the report.

But the women never made the connection that the hacking group was tied to Russia. 

"Never in a million years did I think that it was the Russians," Ricketts told the AP.

"Not only did we play right into their hands by freaking out, but the media played right into it," she told the news wire. "We reacted in a way that was probably exactly what they were hoping for."

Special counsel Robert MuellerRobert Swan MuellerSasse: US should applaud choice of Mueller to lead Russia probe MORE is leading a broad federal investigation into Russian meddling efforts during the election.

Mueller in February charged 13 Russians and three Russian entities for carrying out "information warfare" through social media and other sophisticated measures in an effort to sow discord.