Russian hackers who infiltrated the Democratic National Committee in the runup to the U.S. elections were under surveillance for a whole year by Dutch intelligence services, who alerted the U.S. government in summer 2015 to the Russian cyber-intrusion efforts. Agents affiliated with the Dutch AIVD (General Intelligence and Security Service) had infiltrated the computer servers and security cameras of Cozy Bear, a Moscow-based hacking group thought to be tied to the Russian government, in mid-2014 and spent the next year gathering data on the group’s infiltrations of the DNC and servers within the State Department and White House.
The AIVD’s findings reached the FBI and wound up on the desk of Robert Mueller, the special prosecutor now leading the FBI investigation into Russian interference in the elections. According to the New York Times, the FBI alerted the DNC, but the DNC did not take the warnings seriously until news of major DNC data breaches broke months later.
“We’d never expected that the Russians would do this, attacking our vital infrastructure and undermining our democracy,” Chris Painter, a former cyber official at the U.S. State department, told Newsweek.
Rob Bertholee, head of AIVD, recounted the operation last Sunday during an interview with College Tour, a Dutch TV program, and said that he had no doubt that the Kremlin was directly behind the cyber campaign against U.S. agencies. He also said that AIVD no longer has access to Cozy Bear, possibly because U.S. sources may have compromised the operation, and that he is much more reticent about sharing intelligence with U.S. counterparts nowadays since Trump is president.