- The Washington Times - Wednesday, September 28, 2016

The FBI has asked several Democratic staffers to surrender their cellphones so federal investigators can search for evidence of a possible state-sponsored hacking campaign that could have compromised their mobile devices as recently as last month, according to multiple reports this week.

An undisclosed number of Democratic Party officials have been asked to let the FBI “image” their cellphones in order for investigators to look for malware or other clues that would suggest their devices have been recently hacked, Reuters and CNN reported Tuesday, citing multiple individuals familiar with the matter.

As with other cyber campaigns waged against the Democratic Party in recent months, U.S. officials once again suspect the Russia government is responsible, two sources told Reuters.

“Our struggle with the Russian hackers that we announced in June is ongoing — as we knew it would be — and we are choosing not to provide general updates unless personal data or other sensitive information has been accessed or stolen,” interim Democratic National Committee Chair Donna Brazile told CNN when asked to weigh in on the latest reports.

FBI representatives declined to comment when reached by Reuters, but Director James Comey acknowledged Wednesday the bureau remains committed to examining any role the Kremlin may have in meddling with the U.S. presidential election.

“We are doing an awful lot of work through our counterintelligence investigators to understand just what mischief is Russia up to in connection with our election,” Mr. Comey testified during an oversight hearing on Capitol Hill. “That’s a part of our work we don’t talk about an awful lot, but it’s at the core of the FBI.”

The latest reports concerning state-sponsored hackers potentially attacking the cellphones of Democratic staffers follows a series of a successful breaches of the party in recent months, most notably the DNC email leak that directly led to the ousting of its former chairwoman, Debbie Wasserman Schultz.

Cybersecurity experts have largely suggested the DNC hack and similar attacks waged against organizations and individuals tied to the Democratic Party have been orchestrated by Russia, but President Vladimir Putin has flatly denied any knowledge of the alleged state-sponsored cyber campaign.

The ranking members on the Senate and House Intelligence Committees, Sen. Dianne Feinstein and Rep. Adam Schiff, California Democrats, pinned the attacks on Mr. Putin and his regime in a joint-statement issued last week.

“Based on briefings we have received, we have concluded that the Russian intelligence agencies are making a serious and concerted effort to influence the U.S. election,” they wrote. “We believe that orders for the Russian intelligence agencies to conduct such actions could come only from very senior levels of the Russian government.”

Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump raised doubts about a Kremlin-link while discussing cybersecurity during his first debate Monday with Democratic opponent Hillary Clinton, quipping that it could have been “somebody sitting on their bed that weighs 400 pounds.”

“[I]f this guy weighs 400 pounds, he is sitting somewhere in Russia right now,” Mr. Schiff responded in an interview with CNN afterwards.

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