Emails hacked from the Hillary Clinton campaign may not have been as reliable as the anti-Clinton camp would like to believe.
The first document published by hacker Guccifer 2.0 had been tampered with prior to being published, according to the Associated Press. In addition to not coming from the Democratic National Committee as Guccifer had promised it would be (it instead came from the email inbox of John Podesta, former chairman for the Clinton campaign), the document had the word “CONFIDENTIAL” written on it. Yet a former DNC official has said that the word “confidential” was not on the original document, indicating that Guccifer had airbrushed it in to spice it up for journalists.
If one document from the Clinton emails was altered, it stands to reason that others may have been as well. After all, releasing tainted leaks would hardly be a new practice for Russian hackers.
In 2017 researchers at the Citizen Lab group released a study indicating that Russian hackers have a pattern of tampering with documents leaked by its hackers to serve the purposes of its propaganda.
“This report describes an extensive Russia-linked phishing and disinformation campaign,” the authors wrote. “It provides evidence of how documents stolen from a prominent journalist and critic of Russia was tampered with and then ‘leaked’ to achieve specific propaganda aims. We name this technique ‘tainted leaks.'”
The authors added, “The report illustrates how the twin strategies of phishing and tainted leaks are sometimes used in combination to infiltrate civil society targets, and to seed mistrust and disinformation. It also illustrates how domestic considerations, specifically concerns about regime security, can motivate espionage operations, particularly those targeting civil society.”