Dutch Spies Warned Washington of Russian Hacking, New Report Shows

Hackers from the Dutch secret service AIVD have given the FBI ‘crucial’ information about Russian efforts to interfere with the U.S. elections, according to an investigation by the Dutch newspaper Volkskrant.

The paper claims that AIVD experts were able to monitor the work of a Russian hackers group named as Cozy Bear for between one and 2.5 years, both online and via a security camera in the building where they worked, The Washington Post reported.

This enabled them to witness them launching an attack on the Democratic Party in the U.S. as well as the White House and the U.S. State Department, the paper said. The AIVD first warned the U.S. about the hackers in November 2014, and then again in November or December when Cozy Bear was able to access confidential notes and the diary of U.S. President Barack Obama.

In July 2015, Cozy Bear was able to access the Democratic Party’s computer system and the AIVD and MIVD again warned the US authorities, the paper said. The Volkskrant bases its claims on six anonymous sources from both the Netherlands and Russia. They say the Dutch evidence was grounds for the FBI to start an investigation into Russian interference in the presidential race between Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump. That investigation is currently being carried out by special prosecutor Robert Mueller.

Three American intelligence services have said with ‘high certainty’ that the Kremlin was behind the attack on the Democratic Party, and that certainty is derived from the Dutch AIVD hackers’ information, the Volkskrant said. Cyber campaign AIVD chief Rob Bertholee told television talk show College Tour earlier this month he had ‘no doubt’ that the Kremlin was responsible for the Russian cyber campaign against U.S. government institutions.

Home affairs minister Kajsa Ollongren said late last year that Russia was also trying to influence Dutch public opinion while the AIVD said in its annual report that it was increasingly busy dealing with digital attacks and clandestine attempts to influence policy, largely from Russia.

Ollongren declined to comment on the Volkskrant’s claims but is quoted as saying in the NRC that: ‘there is a reason why I have pointed out the risk of foreign parties trying to influence democracies, such as by spreading disinformation or hacking. The AIVD has also warned about this.

Russia later dismissed the research, pointing out it is not based on official security service statements. The Dutch media are throwing oil on the fire of ‘anti-Russian hysteria’, spokesman Dmitri Peskov told the NRC.