New NSA hacking report is basically a ‘House of Cards’ episode

Russian hacking in the U.S. election isn't just a TV plot point.
Image: ambar del moral/mashable

New top secret National Security Agency (NSA) documents reportedly surfaced Monday, and they brought with them the alarming suggestion that Russian military intelligence officials attempted to hack into the U.S. voting system ahead of the November election.

The report, which was dated May 5 and obtained by The Intercept, details how hackers from the GRU, or the Russian General Staff Main Intelligence Directorate, attacked an elections software and hardware company just before the November election.

It’s terrifying stuffand it sounds just like a plot point from the political drama House of Cards.

Russian president Vladimir Putin denied Russian involvement in the election last week, conceding only that hackers with “patriotic leanings” could possibly have decided to act on their own. The report begs to differ. It clearly states that a Russian military intelligence agency was involved.

The documents detail an attack on an elections-related software company in April 2016. Then with data from that, the hackers apparently created a “spear-phishing campaign” targeting local U.S. government organizations. In those phishing emails there was a Microsoft Word document sent out with malicious code. Finally in October 2016, the hackers sent out an email offering “election-related products and services.”

While the document is telling, it’s worth noting that it’s not definitive and comes from a single analysis and doesn’t show any raw intelligence.

If this sounds familiar, you’re not alone. The news reads like a House of Cards storyline come to life, especially the most recent season. Without giving away too many spoilers, Season 5 features an intelligence officer hacking into the NSA to create a fake terror alert, thus closing down some polling places. While the operative in the show is from the U.S., he runs to Russia for protection there.

Twitter users were quick to point out the comparison too.

In a further twist in the tale, Reports surfaced Monday that the FBI has arrested a woman it suspects leaked the document to The Intercept.

Early reports suggested that it was a tiny detailthe creases in the printed copies of the documentsthat led investigators to discover the source of the leak. They cross-referenced agency staff who had printed the documents with those who had emailed The Intercept and that led them to 25-year-old Reality Winner. Winner was a contractor at the NSA in Georgia, the Daily Beast reports.

Critics have complained for a while that real politics is overshadowing the plots of House of Cards, and with this latest development the gap between Netflix fantasy and reality just got even smaller.

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