Russia election hacking — the Kushner Connection

In the summer of 2016, unexplained computer traffic was detected between Trump Tower, Russia’s Alfa Bank and Spectrum Health. The Alfa Bank servers were repeatedly looking up the Trump server’s IP address, a procedure referred to as a “DNS lookup.” A DNS lookup is an initial step in establishing a communications link between computers. The Trump server was set up to accept incoming communications from 19 servers, but 80% of all DNS lookups came from Alfa Bank, and 19% from Spectrum Health.

Together, Alpha Bank and Spectrum Health accounted for 99% of all DNS lookup of the Trump server IP address from May 4 to September 23, 2016, nearly a five month period. The Russian bank looked up the address of the Trump corporate server 2820 times during this period.

Spectrum Health, a medical facility chain, accounted for 714 of the total lookups of the Trump corporate server during the summer of 2016. The chairman of the board of Spectrum Health is Dick Devos, whose wife is Betsy Devos. This is the same Betsy Devos who is now Trumps’s Secretary of Education.

Alfa Bank tries to blame the traffic as routine pings caused by spam marketing from Trump properties.   But the real explanation seems to lead back to Jared Kushner.

Forbes on Jared Kushner: “This Guy Got Trump Elected”

The December 20, 2016 issue of Forbes glowingly chronicled the role fresh-faced puppet master Kushner played in his father-in-law’s unexpected victory. The Trump campaign was in a shambled disarray until Kushner took charge, recognizing that a power vacuum existed in Trump Tower.IMG_0460

Kushner turned the barely cohesive organization into “an actual campaign operation.” He started handling Trump’s schedule and managing the finances, and soon he was assembling a speech and policy teams. Kushner essentially became, as billionaire Peter Thiel is quoted, the campaign’s chief operating officer.

In the article, Trump is described in passing as something of a Luddite, an old dude who clueless about newfangled technology. This claim would seem to be at odds with Trump’s obvious embrace of social media and his addiction to his smart phone.

The most compelling figure in this intrigue, however, wasn’t in Trump Tower. Jared Kushner was three blocks south, high up in his own skyscraper, at 666 Fifth Avenue…”
–Forbes, December 2016

Nevertheless, Forbes relates how the brilliant young Kushner knows all about Facebook and other Internet secrets the old folks don’t understand. Kushner brought his hip Silicon Valley contacts to the oldster table. Thanks to Kushner’s idea of using Facebook data analytics, the sales of MAGA hats and T-shirts soon soared! And so the campaign was won!

Well, not really.

In a brief aside, the article mentions Kushner’s most important contribution — Kushner’s hiring of Cambridge Analytica. (In this December 2016 Facebook post by Andrea Chalupa, she points out that the Forbes article mentions Cambridge Analytica exactly once. She also lists some fascinating facts Forbes conveniently left out of the article.)

The Trump campaign paid $5 million for Cambridge Analytica’s services, and Steve Bannon is a board member. Cambridge Analytica is a privately held company that specializes in data mining and analysis for political campaigns.

Cambridge Analytica–a privacy advocate’s worst nightmare

Cambridge Analytica was spun off in 2013 from its British parent company, SCL Group. SCL Group is a company known for its military disinformation campaigns. Cambridge Analytica was created to specifically to target American politcal campaigns. Cambridge Analytica was successfully deployed by the Brexit referendum campaign.

Kushner’s crew was able to tap into the Republican National Committee’s data machine, and it hired targeting partners like Cambridge Analytica to map voter universes.”
–Forbes, December 2016

Kushner’s virtuoso knowledge of Facebook and his Silicon Valley buddies notwithstanding, the real gamechanger in the Trump campaign was the vast data crunching power and intellectual octane of Cambridge Analytica — and it’s illicitly collected user data.

Cambridge Analytica has collected psychological data on millions of Americans. Most of Cambridge Analytica’s data is collected online, without the online service users’ knowledge, and without their permission. They claim to have 4,000 to 5,000 data points on each American.

The most sinister aspect of Cambridge Analytica is their microtargeting info database. They maintain detailed microtargeting data on over 220 million Americans. Using this data, they can direct specifically-tailored online content to selected individuals according to demographic and psychological profiling.

Kushner used Cambridge Analytica to target mostly Michigan, Pennsylvania, and Wisconsin in order to drive down Hillary Clinton’s voter turnout. This targeting included such tactics as infiltrating the Facebook accounts of African-American voters with “news” stories purporting to reveal that Hillary Clinton is a racist.

The Forbes article was strangely silent about what may have been Kushner’s real genious move — deploying online user experience as a massive propaganda campaign against HRC. This is how Kushner ran a successful campaign in an underground and almost intimate fashion, with traditional old-school campaign operatives and foot soldiers.

But — let’s return to that curious data connection between the server in Trump Tower and Russia’s Alfa Bank.

What were those Trump Tower-Russia data pings anyway?

When the thousands of DNS pings between Trump Tower and Alfa Bank were first discovered, data analysts could not find a logical explanation. Was this ordinary email?  Encrypted communication packets?  Money transfers?

On November 7, 2016, Louise Mensch (writing for Heat Street) reported that in October 2016 a FISA warrant had been granted to allow the FBI to investigate the data connections between Trump Tower and Russia’s Alfa Bank. At that time, the reported existence of the FISA warrants was largely ignored by the main stream media.

Mystery solved? Breakthrough data analysis by Tea Pain

The blogger Tea Pain (who in addition to his journalistic and Twitter cred also apparently has considerable expertise in the field of data analysis and communications protocols, truly a modern Renaissance man, to be sure) was able to obtain the raw ping data associated with Trump Tower for analysis. As Tea Pain wrote in his April 3, 2017 bombshell article:

“Building on the work of @LouiseMensch and data analysis by @Conspirator0 on Twitter, Tea Pain has stumbled onto a possible “signal in the noise” that opens a window into the data-swappin’ shenanigans going on between Trump Tower, Spectrum Health and Russia’s Alfa Bank during the election.”

Tea Pain discovered that the data pattern pointed to SQL Server database replication between Spectrum Health, Trump Tower and Alfa Bank. As Tea Pain explains, as a database is continuously updated at a first location, you don’t constantly recopy the entire database to a second location every time a change is made. To maintain a second identical database, only the data changes are transmitted, at regular intervals.

But when Tea Pain saw the data patterns analyzed by Conspiritor0, he knew he’d spotted something mighty familiar: Database Replication.”
–TeaPain! April 3, 2017

Tea Pain determined the SQL server data replication model matched the pattern of the raw ping data. The patterns suggest that data was transmitted from a partial database at Spectrum Health to a master database at Trump Tower. From Trump Tower, the master database was replicated at an Alfa Bank server. Tea Pain theorizes the replication chain continued from Alfa Bank’s server to Russian intelligence.

Read the details of this brilliant detective work in Tea Pain’s original article:

After Russian intelligence had the data, Putin’s vast army of trolls could have microtargeted social media accounts of likely U.S. voters to surgically inject anti-Hillary Clinton content.

What kind of data was Spectrum Health continuously sending to Trump Tower in the summer of 2016?  Tea Pain theorizes that Spectrum Health would have access to names, addresses, and other info from their extensive healthcare databases. This personal healthcare data could serve to enhance and validate data on the Trump Tower server.  Most significantly, Spectrum Health is headquartered in Michigan, a key battleground state that was targeted by Kushner’s data machine.

What we know:

1. The well-documented internet server traffic beween the Trump corporate server is indicative of SQL Server replication between the Trump server, Spectrum Health and Russia’s Alfa Bank.

2. At the same time the evidence of database replication between Trump Tower and Russia ocurred, Cambridge Analytica was working in the service of Kushner and the Trump campaign to microtarget voters via social media accounts.

3. Russia’s interference in the U.S. presidential involved Russian trolls microtargeting voters via social media accounts.

If this fact pattern is proved correct, there is little doubt that the missing step is this: the transfer of Cambridge Analytica’s deliverables, the analyzed data, to Russian intelligence.

While it’s not apparent where Cambridge Analytica fits into the postulated replication chain, it is possible that Cambridge Analyica’s data deliverables and the Trump server database are one and the same. As recounted in the Forbes article, Kushner had given Cambridge Analytica access to the Republican National Committee database, and this data may have resided on the Trump corporate server.

At Kushner’s behest, the massive data crunching machine of Cambridge Analytica created a stealth database to microtarget social media accounts. The online trolls working for Russian intelligence apparently had access to this same type of targeted data. The discovery that SQL Server replication was regularly occurring between Trump’s corporate server and a Russian server suggests that this is not a coincidence.

An interesting side note is that Cambridge Analytica worked for the Ted Cruz presidential campaign during the 2015 primary season. Since Cruz lost, it might be concluded that Cambridge Analytica’s methods are not necessarily a magic bullet.

Weaponization — the stealth data machine end game?

Kushner’s stealth voter database machine may have had little practical value until it could be successfully weaponized by a foreign government.

The database itself is little more than a mailing list.  But if this same data in the hands of Russian intelligence, with the full force and resources of Putin’s government behind it, it can become something much more powerful. Once in the employ of thousands of full-time paid Russian internet trolls, the database can become a weapon delivering capable of delivering millions of surgical strikes.

And by using a foreign government to do the trolling via non-U.S. internet servers, conveniently there are no fingerprints, no witnesses with a story to sell.  If the Trump campaign were to hire trolls in the U.S., it would be a risky move.  Kushner arguably had motivation to get Cambridge Analytica’s database in the hands of Russian intelligence to maximize its benefit to the Trump campaign.

Now we have what appears be the smoking gun of database replication having occurred between Trump Tower and Russia. The Forbes article confirms Kushner was the brains behind Cambridge Analytica, and credits Kushner for winning the White House for Trump. If Kushner’s contribution to Trump’s victory included sharing Cambridge Analytica data with the Russian government, it is, or should be, treason.