Russian Bank Sends Legal Threats To Researcher Who Revealed Spike In Traffic Supposedly Tied To Trump's Server

from the is-the-wrong-message-worth-shooting-the-messenger-over? dept

Late last year, a security researcher noticed what was believed to be an unusual amount of network traffic between Donald Trump's server and a Russian bank. A lot of bad reporting followed -- some it aided by the security researcher's conclusions -- which attempted to tie some spikes in spam to Trump's supposed collusion with the Russians.

It was a conspiracy theory borne of a researcher's belief something was happening, even when further research by others showed it to be a whole lot of nothing. At this point, only the die hard conspiracy theorists are still holding onto this spike in traffic between a Trump server and a Russian bank as evidence of anything.

Now, there's an additional wrinkle. The FBI is investigating possible connections between Trump and Russia that may have played a part in the election. Nothing has been confirmed by the FBI. As for the spike in network traffic noticed by the researcher, it can still be chalked up to the most boring of non-conspiracy theories: spammers using the same domain name server as both Trump's server and a Russian bank to spam recipients with hotel-related email.

The other party that can't let go of this conspiracy theory is the Russian bank's lawyers. CyberScoop reports Alfa Bank's lawyers have issued legal threats to a security researcher behind the Trump-Russia story.

In a document obtained by CyberScoop, Alfa Bank notified Indiana University computer researcher L. Jean Camp that it’s pursuing “all available options” after Camp’s research suggested the bank engaged in some form of communication with the Trump Organization. Washington-based law firm Kirkland & Ellis sent the letter on the bank’s behalf on March 17.

Alfa Bank is considering, among other things, using one of our nation's most easily-abused laws to pursue legal action against Camp for "promoting an unwarranted investigation" into the bank's ties to Donald Trump. The CFAA is cited as one route the bank may take towards making Camp pay for besmirching the reputation of the Russian bank. It also demands [PDF] she retain records possibly needed in upcoming litigation, including those detailed in this memorable sentence:

communications between you and the individuals you have publicly identified as a "loose group of concerned nerds" with whom you reportedly worked in concert regarding this matter

Being a security researcher is dangerous enough, even when you're 100% in the right. Legal threats tend to follow news of security breaches or unpatched exploits. When you follow the wrong conclusion because you're so sure you're right, you make things worse. The CFAA is a blunt weapon with surprising flexibility, and all the data researchers normally avail themselves of without issue can be twisted into "unauthorized access" by a complainant with sufficient motivation.


Reader Comments

Subscribe: RSS

View by: Time | Thread


  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 24 Mar 2017 @ 10:21am

    Trump news fatigue.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    PileItOn, 24 Mar 2017 @ 10:57am

    Add this to the select committee investigations

    Sure, let's add this as a footnote to the select committee investing Trumps campaign, should be interesting to see how judges react to this request.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 24 Mar 2017 @ 12:13pm

    Bingo!

    With that notice Alfa Bank confirms that there's something to hide.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 24 Mar 2017 @ 2:07pm

    When it happened to her she got hacked, when it happened to him he is sleeping with the enemy. Be a good American and don't try to solve problems, just find someone to point fingers at and blame.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • identicon
      Anonymous Coward, 27 Mar 2017 @ 9:06am

      Re:

      Sure, Clinton's email server contains no evidence of hacking (though it is pretty likely), and the DNC was definitely hacked by a foreign government. We know these things because of investigations that looked into these issues.

      What justification do you have for opposing an investigation? If there's nothing there, Trump will be vindicated. If there is evidence there, we can stamp out the traitors colluding with the Russian government, or laundering Russian money, or whatever it is that the investigation finds.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • icon
    Uriel-238 (profile), 24 Mar 2017 @ 2:28pm

    Alfa Bank, Ms. Streisand Effect. Ms. Effect, Mr. Bank.

    This is how conspiracy theories keep going and going.

    They could have ignored it and let it go away on its own. But no.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • identicon
      Wendy Cockcroft, 28 Mar 2017 @ 6:04am

      Re: Alfa Bank, Ms. Streisand Effect. Ms. Effect, Mr. Bank.

      As a matter of fact you're part right, Uriel. The truth is, conspiracy theories keep going due to confirmation bias and cherry picking. Basically, people want them to be true.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • icon
    Bergman (profile), 24 Mar 2017 @ 5:16pm

    If I were her...

    I'd stay away from fourth floor windows.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Jim, 26 Mar 2017 @ 9:51am

    Yeah!

    Let's start another one. Could the Russian mobsters living in Trump tower be using the same server?

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Cowardly Lion, 27 Jul 2017 @ 5:07am

    A bit light in the gravitas department...

    Surely if Kirkland and Ellis LLP were serious they would have gone to a judge first, and asked for a court order against L. Jean Camp to preserve said evidence?

    Most sensible legal jurisdictions do not delegate any meaningful authority to law firms, or any other firm for that matter, to be able to compel individuals to do anything.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]


Add Your Comment

Have a Techdirt Account? Sign in now. Want one? Register here
Get Techdirt’s Daily Email
Use markdown for basic formatting. HTML is no longer supported.
  Save me a cookie
Follow Techdirt
Special Affiliate Offer

Advertisement
Report this ad  |  Hide Techdirt ads
Essential Reading
Techdirt Deals
Report this ad  |  Hide Techdirt ads
Techdirt Insider Chat
Advertisement
Report this ad  |  Hide Techdirt ads
Recent Stories
Advertisement
Report this ad  |  Hide Techdirt ads

Close

Email This

This feature is only available to registered users. Register or sign in to use it.