Researchers have previously connected Pawn Storm to Russian military intelligence, and the hackers have been tied to specific, high-profile intrusions, notably including the Democratic National Committee breach that resulted in thousands of internal party emails being leaked online during the 2016 presidential race.
The hackers' activities began in June 2017 when they attempted to compromise a lawmaker's credentials through a phishing site created to look like the Senate's internal email system.
Known by pseudonyms including Fancy Bear and Pawn Storm, the hackers began registering bogus websites in June 2017 mimicking the U.S. Senate's Active Directory Federation Services (ADFS), the chamber's internal email system, as part of a phishing expedition meant to trick targets into disclosing their legitimate log-in credentials, according to Trend Micro, a Tokyo-based cybersecurity firm. The Tokyo-based firm then cross-referenced digital fingerprints associated with those sites to ones used nearly exclusively by Fancy Bear, which it dubs "Pawn Storm".
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The Senate Sergeant at Arms office, which is responsible for the upper house's security, declined to comment, but Nebraska Sen.
"Beginning in June 2017, phishing sites were set up mimicking the ADFS (Active Directory Federation Services) of the US Senate".
Trend Micro's report focuses on the efforts of a hacking group called "Pawn Storm" - "an extremely active espionage actor group" more commonly known as "Fancy Bear".
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Earlier this week, BuzzFeed News said that "Fancy Bear" released a set of emails between International Olympic Committee (IOC) employees and third parties discussing the Russian doping conspiracy.
Trend Micro previously drew global attention when it used the technique to uncover decoy websites apparently set up to harvest emails from Emmanuel Macron's French presidential campaign last April. Russian athletes are being forced to compete under a neutral flag in the upcoming Pyeongchang Olympics following an extraordinary doping scandal that has seen 43 athletes and several Russian officials banned for life.
On Wednesday, a group that has brazenly adopted the Fancy Bear nickname began publishing what appeared to be Olympics- and doping-related emails from between September 2016 and March 2017.
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Whether any Senate emails could be published in such a way isn't clear. He said that while he supported transparency, "there should be some process and some system to it".