Russian hackers are targeting U.S. progressive groups in a new wave of attacks, scouring the organizations’ emails for embarrassing details and attempting to extract hush money, according to two people familiar with probes being conducted by the FBI and private security firms.
At least a dozen groups have faced extortion attempts since the U.S. presidential election, said the people, who provided broad outlines of the campaign. The ransom demands are accompanied by samples of sensitive data in the hackers’ possession.
At least some groups have paid the ransoms even though there is little guarantee the documents won’t be made public anyway. Demands have ranged from about $30,000 to $150,000, payable in untraceable bitcoins, according to one of the people familiar with the probe.
The Center for American Progress, a Washington think tank with strong links to both the Clinton and Obama administrations, and Arabella Advisors, which guides liberal donors who want to invest in progressive causes, have been asked to pay ransoms, according to people familiar with the probes.
The Center for American Progress declined a pre-publication request for comment. "CAP has no evidence we have been hacked, no knowledge of it and no reason to believe it to be true. CAP has never been subject to ransom,” Allison Preiss, a spokeswoman for the center, said in a statement Monday morning.
Center for American Progress (CAP) President Neera Tanden is also saying that there is "zero reason to believe" her think tank has been hacked and "certainly hasn't" faced a ransom. She acknowledged, however, that CAP has faced phishing attempts.
Last year, CAP founder John Podesta had his email hacked and leaked to the public.
A report released by the Office of the Director of National Intelligence (ODNI) earlier this year said that Russia targeted think tanks, and nearly every major US think tank has been targeted by foreign spies.
Here is Think Tank Watch's latest piece on foreign intelligence services spying on think tanks.