The Russian cyber espionage group known as Fancy Bear has come to international prominence for its role in hacking the Democratic National Committee in the runup to the 2016 United States Presidential Election.
But Fancy Bear also targeted more than 200 journalists from Russia, the United States and Ukraine with hacking attempts over the last several years, the Associated Press reported. One of these journalists was Hromadske’s Nataliya Gumenyuk.
According to Gumenyuk, the first signs that she was being targeted came in late February or early March 2015, when she received two notifications from Gmail that someone in Pyongyang, North Korea had attempted to access her account. However, she suspects that the hacker was likely hiding their real location.
Then, on March 15, Gumenyuk received what she recognized to be a phishing email, which she quickly deleted. She only found out that the message had come from Fancy Bear when she was contacted by the Associated Press for a comment.
However, it made sense, Gumenyuk says. The phishing email came shortly after the Battle of Debaltseve, a catastrophic defeat for Ukraine, and after the signing of the Minsk Accords. At the time, Gumeniuk was reporting from the front line and frequently speaking publicly about disinformation in the West.
Meanwhile, during the same period, the Russian television channel Life News — a tabloid known for its connections to the Russian security services — reported that, while covering the front line, Gumenyuk had written disparaging comments about eastern Ukraine’s residents in emails to several Ukrainian parliamentarians.
The report was untrue, Gumenyuk says, and the emails cited in it were fabricated. In fact, the emails were so clearly falsified, that Gumenyuk is confident Life News did not have access to anything hacked from her email account.
While the fact she was also targeted by Fancy Bear came as a surprise, Gumenyuk says she was not the least bit surprised that Russia attempted to hack her.
“We were all independent journalists working on the frontline,” she said of herself and other Ukrainian journalists who were targeted. “We always felt we were under risk. There was always that fear.”
/By Matthew Kupfer