Fox News and Wash. Examiner deny new story of Russian hacking of Burisma

And if it did happen, they say, it was really Hunter Biden’s fault

Right-wing media outlets are now waging an assault against this week’s reporting in The New York Times and The Washington Post that Russian hackers had successfully targeted Ukrainian energy company Burisma -- an apparent effort to dig up (and eventually disseminate) dirt on Democratic presidential candidate Joe Biden and his son Hunter, who previously served on the board of Burisma, in the same manner as Russia had targeted Hillary Clinton through hacks of her campaign and the Democratic National Committee back in 2016.

In an opinion piece, the Washington Examiner’s Eddie Scarry wrote a supposed debunking of the story, hanging it largely on just one fact: Oren Falkowitz, the founder of security firm Area 1, which reported the hacking, “is a Democrat” who has donated to the presidential campaigns of Sens. Elizabeth Warren (D-MA)  and Cory Booker (D-NJ), and the firm has done security work for Democrats. (Scarry also noted that Falkowitz has donated to Republicans Rep. Will Hurd (R-TX) and former Ohio Gov. John Kasich.)

On the January 14 edition of Fox News’ The Ingraham Angle, host Laura Ingraham ran with Scarry’s write-up and bluntly declared that she didn’t believe the hack really happened as reported — but if it did happen, then it’s Hunter Biden’s own fault.

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Citation From the January 14, 2020, edition of Fox News’ The Ingraham Angle

LAURA INGRAHAM (HOST): Now, I would like to state that I, personally, if I had to bet the farm on it — if I had a farm — I just don't believe any of these details of this “hack,” at least not as they're laid out, especially considering the source and the interests that stand to benefit. This looks a lot like a planted story meant to pre-spin the 2020 election and maybe even provide cover to Democrat frontrunner Joe Biden should any inconvenient details come out. See, if they come out, they can just say, “See, it's Russia.”

But let's consider for a moment the worst-case scenario, that the Russians did hack Burisma. Well, all it proves is that, first of all, Hunter Biden should never have gotten involved with a corrupt company that has lax security procedures and [is] susceptible to these types of intrusions — especially while his father was the sitting vice president.

Scarry’s write-up in the Washington Examiner asserted that “Falkowitz declined to tell me exactly how his firm would have identified the alleged hacking of Burisma.”

Of course, anybody who had actually read the Times’ story would find a detailed description of how the hacking worked, which got remarkably specific without giving away any trade secrets for its detection:

Area 1 researchers discovered a G.R.U. phishing campaign on Ukrainian companies on New Year’s Eve. A week later, Area 1 determined what the Ukrainian targets had in common: They were all subsidiaries of Burisma Holdings, the company at the center of Mr. Trump’s impeachment. Among the Burisma subsidiaries phished were KUB-Gas, Aldea, Esko-Pivnich, Nadragas, Tehnocom-Service and Pari. The targets also included Kvartal 95, a Ukrainian television production company founded by Mr. Zelensky. The phishing attack on Kvartal 95 appears to have been aimed at digging up email correspondence for the company’s chief, Ivan Bakanov, whom Mr. Zelensky appointed as the head of Ukraine’s Security Service last June.

To steal employees’ credentials, the G.R.U. hackers directed Burisma to their fake login pages. Area 1 was able to trace the look-alike sites through a combination of internet service providers frequently used by G.R.U.’s hackers, rare web traffic patterns, and techniques that have been used in previous attacks against a slew of other victims, including the 2016 hack of the D.N.C. and a more recent Russian hack of the World Anti-Doping Agency.

“The Burisma hack is a cookie-cutter G.R.U. campaign,” Mr. Falkowitz said. “Russian hackers, as sophisticated as they are, also tend to be lazy. They use what works. And in this, they were successful.”

Scarry wrote: “I also asked if [Falkowitz] could offer more information about the ‘sensors’ that his firm uses to target phishing activity. Where are they? How did they retrieve any information relating to Burisma or Ukraine or Russia?”

This question betrays the willful technological illiteracy that has underscored right-wing coverage of Russian hacking efforts from the start. To ask where Area 1’s “sensors” are physically located makes as much sense as Trump’s search to find the DNC “server” in Ukraine. (The server doesn’t even exist as a single physical object, as the DNC emails were constructed across multiple cloud-based servers.) To ask “where” a piece of security software is located falls into the same type of nonsense — not that such facts and logic mean much for conservative media outlets.

Scarry is most known for posting a creepshot of Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-NY).