Where is the DNC Server Anyway?

Turns out there are eleven and at least one of them is on public display. The rest? No one knows for sure and that is interesting.

Alexander Muse
Dec 2 · 5 min read
Photo by Krzysztof Kowalik on Unsplash

The media claims that the conspiracy theory about the Democratic National Committee’s server has been ‘debunked’. The interesting thing is that the media won’t actually discuss the real concerns related to the penetration of the DNC computer infrastructure: Who in the White House told the FBI to stand down and allow a private security firm to conduct the investigation instead?

Two different hacking collectives, without an awareness of one another, penetrated the DNC’s cyberdefenses and found their way into almost 200 different computer systems — 11 physical servers and 180 desktop computers (the 140 servers mentioned in various reports were actually virtual servers running on the 11 physical servers). Both groups had unfettered access to the DNC’s email systems, file servers, backup files, VoIP phone system (including voice mail messages), text messages, and chats. The DNC hired a cybersecurity firm founded by a former Russian national named Dmitri Alperovitch to determine the source of the hacks and to secure their systems from future attacks.

After investigating the DNC breach, Alperovitch explained that his firm, Crowdstrike, had a ‘medium level’ confidence that the first group was the GRU (The Main Directorate of the General Staff of the Armed Forces of the Russian Federation). He then suggested that they had a ‘low level’ confidence that the second group was the FSB (The Federal Security Service of the Russian Federation). Alperovitch explained that there is no direct evidence that the hackers were Russian, but that both attacks have all of the hallmarks of prior attacks similarly assumed to be associated with the Russian government. However, the techniques used were similar to those employed by both Chinese hackers and former Soviet satellite states like Ukraine. Tools used by the CIA to help mask the sources of hacks were leaked online prior to the attack — tools that allowed our hackers to appear to be from China, Russia, or another state actor. Tools that were available to both hacker collectives at the time of the breech.

The media continues to report, without evidence, that the Russians hacked the DNC’s computer infrastructure. The truth is that it is the hacks had all of the tell-tale signs of being from Russian backed hacking collectives — but there is no actual proof — this is confirmed by Crowdstrike. The FBI counter-intelligence unit reviewed Crowdstrike’s work and similarly concluded that it was likely with low to medium level confidence that the FSB and GRU were involved in the hack of the DNC’s computer infrastructure. I have no reason to doubt these assumptions — but no one has been investigating me for three years based on accusations that I’ve colluded with Russia either.

The media has claimed, without evidence, that “Trump’s ‘Missing DNC Server’ Is Neither Missing Nor a Server”. When Trump suggests that he wants the ‘server’ he is referring to the DNC server(s) that the hackers penetrated. According to the DNC’s lawsuit there were 11 physical servers that were hacked and they were all eventually rebuilt. The issue that Trump continues to point out is that in a typical criminal investigation — especially one as important as this one — the servers would have been taken into physical custody by the authorities — in this case the FBI. When I was running the Architel data center we had a customer that was hacked and federal authorities stormed our facility and removed all of their servers from our facility — they did not allow the customer to hire a third party security firm to investigate.

In this case, the DNC, unilaterally, decided to have a private firm founded by a former Russian national named Dmitri Alperovitch investigate the breech. The FBI did not get to analyse the servers for evidence. Instead, Crowdstrike sent the FBI ‘snapshots’ of the data on the servers. Typically the FBI’s cybersecurity experts would have taken physical control of the servers and taken them into evidence before beginning to analyse their contents (just as they did with our data center customers). When Trump explains that he wants to see the ‘server’ he wants the FBI to see the actual bare metal servers — the evidence of one of the biggest criminal conspiracies of all time — one that likely involves the Russians. The fact that there are eleven servers doesn’t ‘debunk’ the fact that Trump only talks about one server. My advice? Don’t call Trump if you need help with your computer — he might refer to your eleven servers as ‘a’ server.

At the end of the day we know where at least one of the DNC servers is — it is in the DNC’s museum on display next to the file cabinet from Watergate (see picture on left on the table). There is no word where the other ten servers are today. They could be still in use, but given their age at the time of the hack and the years that have passed it is likely they have been decommissioned. Perhaps the DNC would be better off just to send the server(s) to the White House.

The truth is that the Ukrainian government worked with the DNC to undermine the Trump campaign in 2016. Ukrainian officials used Twitter and Facebook to spread false information about the president — suggesting he was a puppet of Putin — claims that would eventually result in the Mueller investigation. The founder of Crowdstrike, Dmitri Alperovitch, hates Putin and would do anything to bring him down. Would he fake evidence that the Russians hacked the DNC? Personally I doubt it — I suspect the Russians backed the hackers in question. But we’ll never know the truth because someone in the White House allowed the DNC to stonewall the FBI — even James Comey was pissed off by the decision (and he hates Trump).

Is the ‘server’ conspiracy a conspiracy? I have no idea. Trump usually knows more than he lets on at first. Perhaps he knows who in the White House ordered the FBI to stand down. But what I do know is that the ‘server conspiracy’ has not been debunked — the conspiracy is that the FBI didn’t get to investigate — and the American people deserve to know why.

Alexander Muse

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Check out my latest cookbook: Sous Vide Science. Get it on Amazon: http://tinyurl.com/souvidescience

Unpopular Politics

Political commentary from a lifelong conservative.

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