Russian hackers are reportedly targeting liberal American organizations, looking for compromising emails and using them in a ransom scheme, Bloomberg reported.
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Two people familiar with an FBI investigation into the matter said that at least 12 groups have faced extortion attempts since the 2016 U.S. election. Among the dozen are the Center for American Progress, a think-tank linked to the Clinton and Obama administrations, and Arabella Advisors, which guides donors interested in impactful philanthropy and investing.
In all the cases, hackers sent samples of sensitive information gleaned from the organization's emails, along with demands for money, ranging from around $30,000 to $150,000, one of the sources said. They required the ransom to be paid in bitcoins, a virtual, unregulated currency.
One example of material presented to the organizations for blackmail is a conversation between a nonprofit group and a liberal donor about how to cover some costs for anti-Trump protesters by grant money. The parties were not identified and it's not clear whether the protesters were ever compensated.
Some organizations are said to have transferred funds to the hackers, although there is no guarantee the documents will not be released to the public.
According to Bloomberg, some of the techniques used by the hackers are similar to those of Cozy Bear, one of the Russian government groups that infiltrated the Democratic National Committee's computer network last summer. This particular group hasn't been linked to extortion in the past, but security experts say that the division between government and criminal operations in Russia is murky.