Some high level computer geeks are convinced that solving the Alfa Bank mystery may be the key to figure out how the President Trump’s 2016 campaign and some staffers/ associates, and those cyber-warriors from Russia and/ or elsewhere communicated about the nitty gritty of their theoretical collusion involving voter targeting and demographics; and the possible coordination of WikiLeaks releases of damaging emails hacked by some of those cyber-warriors; to coincide with candidate Mr. Trump’s schedule of appearances and major stump speeches to maximize his impact.
There are Computer geeks who disagree with this premise while there are those who are in the camp of strongly supporting this theory. But it is an hypothesis that is still being debated today.
Read Tea Pain’s “Jared Kushner’s Stealth Russian Data Machine.”
Here’s the rest of the story….
As per a 11/2018 Tremr.com report, Why The Alfa Bank Mystery Is Key To Understanding Trump-Russia Collusion by Shaun D. Mullen, “Uncanny” series of events and seeming “coincidences” are anything but in the Russia scandal. That makes chasing the mystery of the Alpha Bank servers imperative.
“What has been long known is that two servers owned by Alfa Bank, one of the largest banks in Russia, looked up the address of a Trump server nearly every day during the campaign, a total of more than than 2,000 times between May and September 2016.”
“Dexter Filkins does not solve the mystery in an exhaustive new piece in The New Yorker. But he considerably advances our understanding of the mystery’s parameters through interviews with savvy computer scientists who have found digital fingerprints that pretty much put the lie to the litany of rationales and excuses offered by the campaign and others in trying to explain away the deluge of lookups. “
The first thing you should know about the nitty-gritty of the mystery is that Alfa Bank and most of the people on the receiving end of the lookups probably didn’t know they were occurring. (I’ll explain why in a moment.) The second thing you should know is that key to discerning the importance of the lookups is understanding the Domain Name System (DNS), a worldwide network that acts as a sort of phone book for the Internet, translating domain names into IP addresses, the strings of numbers that computers use to identify one another .
The computer scientists, who for the most part want to remain anonymous, became involved after reports in June 2016 that the Democratic National Committee (DNC) had been hacked, by Russians.
Intrigued by the possibility that there was collusion in the form of computer communications between the Trump campaign and Russians, the computer scientists began their search for fingerprints by examining DNS logs for domains associated with Republican candidates. DNS logs are records of the servers used by private companies, public institutions and . . . yes, banks, and reveal who has been trying to connect with whom.
One of the computer scientists, who called himself Max, told Filkins that they went looking looking for fingerprints similar to those on the Russian-hacked DNC computers, but “we didn’t find what we were looking for. [But] we found something totally different. Something unique.”
“It was in the small town of Lititz in Pennsylvania Dutch country, that they stumbled on a domain linked to the Trump Organization that was behaving in a peculiar way.”
“The server that housed the domain belonged to a company called Listrak, which mostly delivered mass-marketing e-mails. Some Trump Organization domains sent mass e-mail blasts, but the one that Max and his colleagues spotted appeared not to be sending anything. However, at the same time a very small group of companies — two in all — seemed to be trying to communicate with it.”
( There’s speculation that another Trump Tower server belonging to a digital marketing company, Cendyn, advertising Trump Hotels could be a part of this scheme.” As per a 10/31/2016 Slate report, “Researchers had initially stumbled in their diagnosis because of the odd configuration of Trump’s server. “I’ve never seen a server set up like that,” says Christopher Davis, who runs the cybersecurity firm HYAS InfoSec Inc. and won a FBI Director Award for Excellence for his work tracking down the authors of one of the world’s nastiest botnet attacks. “It looked weird, and it didn’t pass the sniff test.” The server was first registered to Trump’s business in 2009 and was set up to run consumer marketing campaigns. It had a history of sending mass emails on behalf of Trump-branded properties and products. Researchers were ultimately convinced that the server indeed belonged to Trump. (Click here to see the server’s registration record.) But now this capacious server handled a strangely small load of traffic, such a small load that it would be hard for a company to justify the expense and trouble it would take to maintain it. “I get more mail in a day than the server handled,” Davis says.” )
“Examining records for the Trump domain over the summer of 2016, Max’s group discovered DNS lookups from a pair of servers owned by Alfa Bank. They found there were dozens of lookups on some days and far fewer on others, but the total number was more than 2,000 between May and September 2016.”
“We were watching this happen in real time –it was like watching an airplane fly by,” Max said. “And we thought, ‘Why the hell is a Russian bank communicating with a server that belongs to the Trump Organization, and at such a rate?’ “
“Only one other entity seemed to be reaching out to the Trump Organization’s domain with any frequency: Spectrum Health, of Grand Rapids, Michigan.”
“Spectrum Health is closely linked to the filthy-rich DeVos family, who are major Trump contributors. They include Betsy DeVos, whom Trump appointed Secretary of Education, and her brother, the particularly vile Erik Prince, the founder of the notorious Blackwater group and who, to Special Counsel Mueller’s great interest, in all likelihood was a Russian cutout when he secretly met after the election with a Putin pal in the Seychelles to discuss setting up a back channel between Trump and the Russian leader.”
“Why was the Trump Organization’s domain, set up to send mass-marketing e-mails, conducting such meager activity? And why were computers at Alfa Bank and Spectrum Health trying to reach a server that didn’t seem to be doing anything?”
“After analyzing the data, the answer became clear. The fingerprints pointed to a covert communication channel that might have used a method called foldering. With foldering, messages are written but not sent; instead, they are saved in a drafts folder, where an accomplice who also has access to the account can read them .”
The Trump campaign and Trump Organization, Alfa Bank and Spectrum Health have repeatedly and strenuously denied the covert channel finding .
In August, Max decided to reveal the data that he and his colleagues had assembled because, if the covert communications were real, “this potential threat to our country needed to be known before the election.”
“He decided to hand over their findings to the FBI and Eric Lichtblau, a New York Times reporter with cyber-security chops who in turn shared the findings with three computer scientists who were struck by the unusual traffic on the server and that substantial effort had gone into concealing it.”
“These people who should not be communicating are clearly communicating,” concluded one of the computer scientists, Jean Camp of Indiana University.”
“Lichtblau prepared a story. The FBI asked The Times to sit on it, and then seemed to lose interest. Then Dean Baquet, The Times ‘ executive editor, decided that it would not suffice to report the existence of the computer contacts without knowing their purpose. The resulting October 31 story not only was watered down, but it erroneously reported that the FBI had not found any links between the Trump campaign and Russia.”
“A day earlier, Slate had published a story by Franklin Foer that made a detailed case for the possibility of a covert link between Alfa Bank and Trump and quoted several experts, most of whom said that there appeared to be no other plausible explanation for the data. One aspect of Foer’s story was particularly intriguing.”
“On September 21, The Times had provided potential evidence of the communication channel to a Washington lobbying firm that worked for Alfa Bank. Two days later, the Trump domain vanished from the Internet, but for four more days, the servers at Alfa Bank kept trying to look up the Trump domain. Then, 10 minutes after the last attempt, one of them looked up another domain which had been configured to lead to the same Trump Organization server .”
“The Slate story notwithstanding, interest in the Alpha Bank Mystery began to fade following Trump’s November 8 victory. This is not necessarily surprising given the extraordinary quantity of developments being reported as the shocking breadth and depth of the Russia scandal started to become known.”
“Then an unnamed Democratic senator became interested.”
“The senator enlisted Daniel Jones, a former FBI counterterrorism investigator who runs a security firm and a nonprofit initiative intended to keep elections free from foreign interference. To assess the Alfa Bank data, Jones assembled yet another team of computer scientists and divided them into two geographic groups. In order to encourage an unbiased outcome, Jones never introduced the East Coast group to the West Coast group.”
“I started from an assumption that this is a bunch of nonsense,” one of the computer scientists, who used the pseudonym Leto, told Filkins. But in the end he too became convinced that he was looking at a covert communications channel.
“If I’m a cop, I’m not going to take this to the DA and say we’re ready to prosecute,” Leto said. “I’m going to say we have enough to ask for a search warrant.”
“No one is holding their breath waiting for that to happen, and there are a small army of detractors.”
“Among them is Marcy Wheeler, a first-rate blogger whose posts at emptywheelhave been some of the best on the Russia scandal.”
“Wheeler concludes that “This Trump Tower – Alfa Bank story continues to spin journalists, not to mention academics and infosec experts, into uncharacteristic habits that don’t appear to be leading to any real clarity.”
“I mostly disagree.”
“In the final analysis (mine), it is impossible to dispute the conclusions of a small army of computer scientists who together and independently determined that at the heart of the Alpha (Alfa) Bank Mystery is the existence of a covert communication channel.”
“Chasing the Alpha Bank Mystery (is) an imperative.”
Click HERE for a comprehensive timeline of the Russia scandal.
See: newyorker.com./Was There a Connection Between a Russian Bank and the Trump …
See TeaPain blog: Major Alfa Bank-Trump Tower Breakthrough!