Security Experts:

Ukrainian Group Claims Hack of Putin Advisor's Email

A hacker group calling itself “Cyber Hunta” leaked over 2,000 emails allegedly stolen from the account of Vladislav Yuryevich Surkov, adviser to Russian President Vladimir Putin.

Kremlin representatives said the leaked emails cannot belong to Surkov as he did not use email. However, the Atlantic Council's Digital Forensic Research Lab analyzed the files and determined that the breached inbox, [email protected], was apparently managed by Surkov’s assistants.

The Ukrainian security service SBU said the leaked emails were genuine, but cautioned that they may have been tampered with. The agency is known for making accusations against Russia – it blamed Moscow for the December 2015 attacks targeting Ukraine’s energy sector and a major cyber espionage campaign aimed at the Ukrainian government.

Stronger evidence that the hack is legitimate is provided by the 1 Gb Outlook data file (.pst) made available by the hackers. The 2,337 messages included in the leak have legitimate-looking headers and they include “boring” day-to-day emails. Experts believe it’s unlikely that someone went to the trouble of faking all the information.

The Associated Press also analyzed the leak and confirmed with some Russian journalists and businessmen, whose emails show up in the dump, that the messages are legitimate.

While most of the leaked emails are uninteresting, there are some documents related to the war in Donbass, including a list of casualties, and government expense reports. The emails also appear to show connections between the Russian government and pro-Russia separatists in eastern Ukraine, and plans to destabilize the Ukrainian government.

Cyber Hunta describes itself as a community of Ukrainian hackers and analysts whose goal is to fight foreign aggression and “internal enemies.” The group claims to have access to the internal networks of the Russian presidential administration and the parliament.

Experts believe many countries have been conducting silent cyber espionage operations, but public threats of cyberwar have also increased over the past period. After formally accusing the Russian government of trying to interfere with this year’s elections, U.S. officials said the CIA was preparing a retaliatory attack meant to “harass and embarrass the Kremlin leadership.” Moscow slammed Washington over the threats and vowed to respond.

Related: Ukraine Accuses Russia of Cyber Attack on Kiev Airport

Related: Ukraine Separatists, Politicians Targeted in Surveillance Operation

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Eduard Kovacs (@EduardKovacs) is a contributing editor at SecurityWeek. He worked as a high school IT teacher for two years before starting a career in journalism as Softpedia’s security news reporter. Eduard holds a bachelor’s degree in industrial informatics and a master’s degree in computer techniques applied in electrical engineering.