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MIT Technology Review

Ukraine has asked for FBI help on the reported Russian hacking plot

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burisma operationsburisma operations

Ukrainian authorities opened an investigation into Russian military intelligence hackers following allegations that they attempted to steal data from Burisma, a Ukrainian energy company where the son of American presidential candidate Joe Biden was a board member. Ukrainian officials asked the FBI for help with the investigation on Thursday.

According to Politico, American lawmakers are currently pressing for more details on the reported hack.

The report: On Monday, the American cybersecurity firm Area 1 Security reported that Burisma was targeted by some of the same Russian hackers who broke into the Democratic National Committee server in 2016 as part of what US intelligence officials describe as an unprecedented election interference campaign orchestrated by Russia. The same hackers reportedly targeted Studio Kvartal 95, an entertainment company founded by Ukrainian president Volodymyr Zelensky.

The alleged attackers: The Area 1 team pointed at Russia’s Main Intelligence Directorate, known as the GRU. In America, the hacking group is more popularly known as Fancy Bear or APT28. It is among the most advanced, accomplished, and notorious government-sponsored hacking groups in the world. The Russian embassy did not respond to a request for comment.

Unanswered questions: The reported targeting is significant, but many questions remain. It’s not clear whether the hackers were successful, what specifically they aimed to steal, what was behind the attempt, or what the consequences of the attempted hack might be. Cybersecurity experts criticized the relative lack of technical detail offered in the report and called for more information on the incident.

In 2016, emails stolen by Russian hackers from the DNC and the Hillary Clinton campaign were strategically leaked throughout the year. Experts wonder if similar hacking and leaking tactics be employed during this presidential campaign.

The 2020 campaign: Hunter Biden was a board member of Burisma. The company has been in the spotlight because of Donald Trump’s attempts to push Ukrainian officials to investigate Biden just as his father's presidential campaign was kicking off. That led to Trump being impeached by the US House of Representatives. The trial begins in the US Senate this week.

Burisma did not respond to a request for comment, and the FBI did not immediately respond to requests for comment.