Cyber Security

DNC ‘Hacker’ Strikes Again, Calling Elections ‘Farce’

Guccifer 2.0 is back, and he thinks the campaign strategies used in our elections don't work

Cyber Security
Illustration: R. A. Di Ieso
Aug 16, 2016 at 4:00 PM ET

Guccifer 2.0, the online character who disseminates hacked emails and memos from the Democratic National Committee, has struck again.

And this time, the once-vague “hacker” is offering a conspiracy theory, recently adopted by Republican presidential candidate and reality television star Donald Trump, that the 2016 U.S. elections will be rigged.

The latest batch of documents, released Monday, largely consist of standard campaign strategies for House Democrats in five Florida districts. Each candidate is a challenger: Four districts are currently held by a Republican; the other is by Patrick Murphy, a Democrat who’s instead seeking a Senate seat this election. Compiled by several consulting groups, the files delve deep into topics like the perceived strengths and weaknesses of the Democratic congressional candidate for each district, their biographies and voting record, and how that candidate can resonate with residents of those areas.

Less interesting than the contents of those files, however, is their presentation. On the WordPress blog where Guccifer 2.0 posts his files, he added a commentary: “It may seem the congressional primaries are also becoming a farce.”

It’s believed to be the first time Guccifer 2.0, who’s taken a serious interest in the U.S. election, has openly cast doubt on the integrity of U.S. elections. But he’s not the only one. Last week in Pennsylvania, a state crucial for Trump’s plan to win the electoral college, and one in which polls say he’s losing significantly, the self-proclaimed billionaire claimed that, “the only way we can lose, in my opinion—and I really mean this, Pennsylvania—is if cheating goes on.”

That’s not to say there’s any direct link between Trump and Guccifer 2.0, of course. But it does add fuel to the theory that he’s a character created by the Russian government, which openly supports Trump over Democrat Hillary Clinton, to help disseminate those DNC documents.

Guccifer 2.0’s true identity is hotly contested, though it’s at least been clear he’s been dishonest about it. The day before he created his WordPress and Twitter accounts to announce his presence to the world, the Washington Post broke the news that cybersecurity firms strongly believed the DNC had been breached by two distinct Russian government groups. Guccifer countered that he alone was the hacker and that he was Romanian and did not speak Russian. However, linguistic analysis of his English by Motherboard—his fluency seemed to vacillate wildly from conversation to conversation—pointed to Russian origins, as did modifications to the DNC files before they were posted. An email he sent to Vocativ, analyzed by cybersecurity experts at ThreatConnect, indicated he was using a Russian company to hide his online tracks.

One theory, supported by ThreatConnect’s thorough analysis of Guccifer 2.0’s behavior, is that while the DNC was hacked by more advanced Russian hackers, that information was passed to a different government actor to disseminate.

In a July Twitter direct message conversation with Vocativ, Guccifer 2.0 insisted that he wasn’t specifically angling against Democrats. “if by any chance i had managed to breach into the rnc be sure i wouldn’t have hesitated to leak their docs,” he wrote. Elsewhere, he showed more of a preference. In one blog post, he wrote that “Hillary seems so much false to me, she got all her money from political activities and lobbying, she is a slave of moguls,” but that “Donald Trump has earned his money himself. And at least he is sincere in what he says.”