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Russia behind DNC’s cyber attack

Is Vladimir V. Putin trying to meddle in the American presidential election?

US officials said the suspected Russian hack of the Democratic National Committee last month was part of Russian cyber attacks aimed at political organizations and academic think tanks in Washington.

Until Friday, the Russians being behind the hack were only whispered but the release of some 20,000 stolen emails from DNC’s computer servers has intensified discussion of the role of Russian intelligence agencies in disrupting the 2016 campaign.

That hack dominated the news space on the eve of the Democratic convention. The emails disclosed by WikiLeaks show DNC chairwoman, Debbie Wasserman Schultz, plotting to undermine the campaign of Senator Bernie Sanders, confirming the worst suspicions of the left flank of the party. She resigned from her post after the revelation on Sunday.

The FBI is investigating the DNC hack and has sent experts to meet with the Republican National Committee, as well as the major campaigns, to discuss their security measures. The bureau has been working with political organizations and think tanks to put more resources into the security of DNC’s computer networks.

“The software code seen from the hack had all the telltale signs of being Russian, including code re-used from attacks,” said Bob Gourley, a former chief technology officer for the Defense Intelligence Agency and now the co-founder and partner Cognitio, a cyber security consultancy.

When the hack of the DNC was first disclosed in June, the security firm Crowdstrike also pointed to the Russians. Crowdstrike investigated the incident for the Democratic party and concluded it was the same actor that penetrated the State Department, White House and Pentagon unclassified systems in 2015.

Trump told The New York Times in an interview last week that if he's elected the US President, he wouldn't defend NATO allies against Russian aggression if they haven't "fulfilled their obligation to us." Until Trump, no Republican presidential nominee has questioned the U.S. mutual-defense commitment enshrined in NATO.

Over the weekend, the Trump and Clinton campaigns traded accusations on the issue.

Trump's son, Donald Trump Jr., denied that his father's campaign had anything to do with encouraging Russians to hack the DNC. The party officials have also denied any involvement in the case.

The question is of who benefits. While Clinton implemented a reset in relations with Russia when she was secretary of state, she has since soured on Moscow. When Russian irregulars invaded Ukraine in 2014, she compared Putin to Hitler.

Whether the thefts were ordered by Putin or just carried out by apparatchiks, who thought they might please him, is just a guess till now. It may take months, or years, to figure out the motives of those who stole the emails and the commanding force behind the actions but the theft from the national committee would be among the most important state-sponsored hacks yet of an American organization, rivaled only by the attacks on the Office of Personnel Management by state-sponsored Chinese hackers, and the attack on Sony Pictures Entertainment, which President Barack Obama blamed on North Korea.

A man sentenced in celebrity hacking case

A federal judge had sentenced a man to six months in federal prison for hacking into hundreds of Apple and Google accounts and stealing explicit photos from several unidentified celebrities.

According to the U.S. attorney's office in Los Angeles, U.S. District Judge John A. Kronstadt also issued a $3,000 fine to the accused, Andrew Helton, a 29-year-old resident of Portland.

Helton pleaded guilty in March for stealing 161 nude or explicit photos from 13 people. Authorities have said they do not believe any of the images he stole were publicly released.

"For more than two years, defendant Andrew Helton targeted, baited, and hooked unsuspecting victims with his phishing e-mails," Assistant United States Attorney Stephanie S. Christensen wrote in a filing urging Kronstadt to sentence Helton to at least a year in prison. "He targeted strangers, acquaintances, and celebrities alike. He trolled through their private e-mail accounts, accessing the most private of communications. He systematically pilfered nude and intimate images of his victims and stored them for personal use."

His attorney defended him that he should not receive a prison sentence because the phishing technique he used was not technologically sophisticated, and his arrest forced him to confront his mental health issues and change his life.

"For the last ... five years or so, I've been a dead man walking, so to speak," Helton said at the outset of lengthy comments about how his arrest changed his life.

"Mental illness took over my life and surrounded everything," Helton said. Court filings noted he was diagnosed with bipolar disorder after his arrest in 2013 and has been receiving treatment ever since.

He said for the first time in his life, he can envision a future and wants to help people.

Turkey Blocks WikiLeaks After Erdogan Emails Go Online

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Turkey has blocked its residents from accessing WikiLeaks website after it dumped nearly 300,000 emails from President Recep Tayyip Erdogan's ruling party AKP online.

The leaked documents, which are being called the 'Erdogan Emails’, were obtained a week before Turkey saw an attempted coup to overthrow Erdogan that resulted in almost 300 deaths. As a result WikiLeaks moved forward its publication schedule in response to the government's post-coup purges. WikiLeaks added that that the source of the emails was not connected to the coup plotters or to a rival political party or state.

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The emails date from 2010 to 6 July this year. The nature and content of the "emails associated with the domain are mostly used for dealing with the world, as opposed to the most sensitive internal matters" says the official WikiLeaks website.

Although these won't contain President Erdogan's top-secret personal emails, there are masses of correspondence between party members to highlight the dynamic of the AKP and their political agendas.

Wikileaks said on Twitter that Turks who are blocked from accessing its website can "use a proxy or any of our IPs" to get access to the documents on Turkey's ruling party.

The Turkish government has previously banned access to websites deemed to be carrying material critical of Turkey, including YouTube and Twitter.

Snowden Designs Device To Get A Safer iPhone

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Well, you heard it right! It is Edward Snowden who wants to help you keep a check on your mobiles which might be spying on you. The NSA whistleblower along with his co-author and fellow hacker Andrew Huang presented their research on phone "hardware introspection" at the MIT Lab which aims to give users the ability to see whether their phone is sending out secret signals to an intelligence agency.

"This work aims to give journalists the tools to know when their smart phones are tracking or disclosing their location when the devices are supposed to be in airplane mode," the pair wrote in their technical paper.

In their paper, Snowden and Huang make it clear that what you see on your phone's screen is not always true.

If you turn off Bluetooth or cellular service, the phone's radios and other electronics can still be made to send signals, especially if they are compromised by a sophisticated intelligence agency or hackers. Even airplane mode isn't a defense, since the current version of Apple's iOS still keeps the GPS active while in that state.

"Trusting a phone that has been hacked to go into airplane mode is like trusting a drunk person to judge if they are sober enough to drive," they write.

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The pair, hence, suggest a device (a phone case) that plugs into the hardware and constantly scans to see whether is transmitting. Both Snowden and Huang plan to create a prototype of the device this year.

"As the project is run largely through volunteer efforts on a shoestring budget, it will proceed at a pace reflecting the practical limitations of donated time," they wrote. "If the prototype proves successful, The Freedom of the Press Foundation may move to seek the necessary funding to develop and maintain a supply chain. This would enable the FPF to deploy modified iPhone 6 devices for field service among journalists in high-risk situations."

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