Four years ago, well before the furor over allegations Moscow meddled in last year’s US elections that put US President Donald Trump in the White House, at least 195 Web addresses belonging to Trump, his family or his business empire were hijacked by hackers possibly operating out of Russia, The Associated Press has learned.
The Trump Organization denied the domain names were ever compromised, but a review of Internet records by the AP and cybersecurity experts shows otherwise.
It was not until this past week, after the Trump camp was asked about it by the AP, that the last of the tampered-with addresses were repaired.
After the hack, computer users who visited the Trump-related addresses were unwittingly redirected to servers in St Petersburg, Russia, that cybersecurity experts said contained malicious software commonly used to steal passwords or hold files for ransom.
Whether anyone fell victim to such tactics is unclear.
A further mystery is who the hackers were and why they did it.
The discovery represents a new twist in the Russian hacking story, which up to now has focused mostly on what US intelligence officials say was a campaign by the Kremlin to try to undermine then-Democrat presidential candidate Hillary Rodham Clinton’s candidacy and benefit Trump’s.
It is not known whether the hackers who tampered with the Trump addresses are the same ones who stole Democratic officials’ e-mails and embarrassed the party in the heat of the campaign last year. Nor is it clear whether the hackers were acting on behalf of the Russian government.
The affected addresses, or domain names, included donaldtrump.org, donaldtrumpexecutiveoffice.com, donaldtrumprealty.com and barrontrump.com. They were compromised in two waves of attacks in August and September 2013, according to the review of Internet records.
The attacks took place as Trump was preparing to travel to Moscow for the Miss Universe pageant, which was held on Nov. 9, 2013.
Many of the addresses were not being used by Trump. Businesses and public figures commonly buy addresses for possible future use or to prevent them from falling into the hands of rivals or enemies.
The Trump Organization and its affiliates own at least 3,300 in all.
According to security experts, the hackers hijacked the addresses by penetrating and altering the domain registration records housed at GoDaddy.com, a seller of Web addresses.
However, GoDaddy spokesman Nick Fuller said the company had no breaches of its system in 2013.
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