Most experts seem to agree that the answer is yes, in spite of the predictable denials of Putin's minions. The New York Times explored this story earlier this week.
Is Putin trying to meddle in American's presidential election? Well, he sure has motivation. He is no friend to the West and particularly no friend to the U.S.
The release last Friday of some 20,000 stolen e-mails from the Democratic National Committee's computer servers, many of them embarrassing to Democratic leaders, has intensified discussion of the role of Russian intelligence agencies in disrupting the 2016 campaign.
The e-mails, released first by a supposed hacker and later by WikiLeaks, exposed the degree to which the Democratic apparatus favored Hillary Clinton over Bernie Sanders. The e-mails were shameful and resulted in the resignation of Debbie Wasserman Schultz, the party chairwoman, on the eve of the convention's first day.
Everyone acknowledges that proving the source of a cyberattack is notoriously difficult. But researchers have concluded that the national committee was breached by two Russian intelligence agencies, which were the same attackers behind previous Russian cyberoperations at the White House, the State Department and the Joint Chiefs of Staff last year. And metadata from the released e-mails suggests that the documents passed through Russian computers. Though a hacker claimed responsibility for giving the e-mails to WikiLeaks, the same agencies are the prime suspects. So it seems fairly certain that the attackers were Russian and the FBI continues to probe the hack.
The timing of the leak couldn't have been worse for the Democrats or better for Trump. I'm not a big believer in coincidence.
Trump indicated in a recent interview with The New York Times that he might not back NATO nations if they came under attack from Russia — unless he was first convinced that the countries had made sufficient contributions to the Atlantic alliance. Music to Putin's ears, no doubt.
Trump has also said he would like to "get along with Russia" if he is elected, and complimented Mr. Putin, saying he is more of a leader than President Obama. Mr. Putin has in turn praised Mr. Trump. The wags on social media talked of a bromance.
The WikiLeaks release has more than a tinge of Russian-style information war, in which the intent of the revelations is to alter political events. Remember Fred Thompson in "The Hunt for Red October?" He said "Russians don't take a dump, son, without a plan." And so yes, I see a plan at work here.
Trump himself leapt on the news after the WikiLeaks release on Saturday. In a Twitter message he wrote: "Leaked emails of DNC show plans to destroy Bernie Sanders. Mock his heritage and much more. On-line from Wikileakes, really vicious. RIGGED."
The article includes far more detail suggesting that hack was Russian and is well worth reading.
For more about Donald Trump and his financial ties to Russia, see this Washington Post article – and there are many more such articles being published each day.
Were the DNC e-mails a disgrace? Certainly. My British friends would call them a "cock-up." I hope and trust that the issues they raised will continue to be addressed by the DNC seriously. But that they came to light also troubles me.
Can e-mails be weaponized? I think they just were.
E-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org Phone: 703-359-0700
Digital Forensics/Information Security/Information Technology