During the 2016 elections, Russian government agents hacked into the Democratic National Committee and into Hillary Clinton’s presidential campaign, then dumped the stolen data in an effort to sabotage Donald Trump’s election opponent. The more we learn about the supposed “Hunter Biden laptop,” a scandal meant to roil the campaign of Donald Trump’s election opponent four years later, the more it looks like somebody was following the same hack-and-dump playbook.
Marcy Wheeler has a new post that breaks down some of the many, many known oddities of the supposed "laptop." When you consider that the whole premise of the story to begin with is that a "Hunter Biden" allegedly wandered into a random Delaware computer repair shop, handed over a damaged laptop, completely forgot about it afterward, and then somehow the computer dude and/or allies decided that Donald Trump ratf--ker Rudy freaking Giuliani was the person he needed to deliver the laptop's data to, dozens of other oddities piled on top of that begin to turn what started out as farce into a full three-ring circus of weird.
Marcy's post is, as usual, worth reading in full, but here’s the shortest version of it: Quite a lot of evidence suggests that in 2018 or 2019, Hunter Biden was the target of a successful phish or other hack that gave an outside party access to his iCloud account, his email accounts, and other data.
Of special note is a window of time during which Hunter was receiving addiction treatment (from the disgraced ex-Fox News talking head Dr. Keith Ablow, no less, just to put a nearly cartoonish spin on all this yet again) and appears to have had "limited" online communications. Despite those limited communications, somebody was using this period of time to make a hell of a lot of technical changes to Hunter's iCloud and email accounts, including:
Changed the password and related phone numbers to his rhb iCloud account
Installed and gave full access to his droidhunter gmail account a real app, called Hunter, that can send email on someone else’s behalf
Signed into that droidhunter account using a new device
Again changed emails and phone numbers associated with his rhb account
Asked for a full copy of his rhbdc iCloud account
Reset the password of that rhbdc iCloud account
Made droidhunter account the notification email for the rhbdc account
Downloaded all Hunter’s Apple Store purchases
Signed into the droidhunter account from a burner phone
Restored the prior trusted phone number
Added software that could record calls
Started erasing and then locked a laptop — probably the one that would eventually end up in Mac Isaac’s store
The list goes on, but the changes line up almost precisely with what you'd see in the aftermath of a successful phishing attack or other security breach. Passwords and security-related phone numbers were changed, access was granted to additional devices and burner phones, there was a "full copy" made of his iCloud account, some spyware or spyware-adjacent new tools were installed, and after a full data dump was made, some of the security changes were reverted so as to obfuscate what had just gone on.
The emails from Hunter around this time period don't suggest a man deep in the weeds of tweaking his own online security details, to put it mildly, so we're left wondering just who was doing all this fiddling.
The sheer number should have raised alarms that people had broken into Hunter Biden’s iCloud accounts when the IRS asked Apple for Hunter Biden’s subscriber information in November 2019, in advance of writing a subpoena for the laptop in custody of John Paul Mac Isaac. Additionally, there were a bunch of attempts to get into Hunter Biden’s Venmo account, and the account added two new Remembered Devices within 12 minutes of each other in August 2018, one in the LA foothills and the other in Las Vegas. That and other details (including texts and emails) might have raised questions about whether sex workers from the very same escort service on which the IRS had predicated this entire investigation took steps to compromise Hunter Biden’s devices.
The evidence is very good, then, that Hunter Biden's online accounts were successfully hacked shortly before a "laptop" purportedly belonging to him mysteriously showed up in a Delaware computer repair shop, packed with seemingly legitimate data that then was handed over to Rudy freaking Giuliani, the man in Donald Trump's orbit most intimately involved in ginning up dirt, any dirt at all, about Hunter Biden during Trump's reelection bid.
A bunch of media outlets have previously breathlessly reported that the laptop had been "verified" as belonging to Hunter Biden while simultaneously fudging what that means. It means that the laptop, or at least its alleged hard drive, does indeed contain data from Hunter's email and iCloud accounts. There's another obvious scenario, though, and that's the exact hack-and-dump scheme that the FBI was warning Twitter and Facebook off of before the New York Post reported its original scoop revealing the alleged existence of the laptop.
Government disinformation specialists were warning, in the wake of Giuliani's already exposed anti-Biden ratf--king efforts based in part on hoaxes pushed by pro-Russian interests (see: Trump's impeachment, as in the first one and not the second one) that foreign disinformation aimed at bending the 2020 elections was still prevalent. Counterintelligence specialists were on watch, especially after Russian agents successfully hacked into the Democratic National Committee and Hillary Clinton's presidential campaigns in 2016, "dumping" the stolen information through multiple entities in an attempt to boost Trump's chances of winning.
What we have in the Hunter laptop case appears to be an uncannily similar series of events. Hunter's email, iCloud, Venmo, and other accounts appear to have been breached in 2018 and 2019. His data was copied, spyware was installed, and cursory attempts to cover up the breach were made.
And then, lo and behold, a laptop containing a copy of that data—one that showed clear evidence of the data being tampered with—gets dumped at a computer repair shop, never to be picked up again, while a copy of its data somehow makes it to Giuliani.
The only thing that would make all of this sketchier than it already is? A bizarre Russian link—and the joke’s on you if you thought there wouldn't be one because weirdly, very very weirdly, the escort service suspected of possibly being an origin point for hacks of Hunter's Venmo account appears to be tied to Russia.
Marcy's careful to leave out speculation beyond what seems obvious: The activity surrounding Hunter's online accounts seems to strongly suggest hackers successfully breached his accounts well before the laptop ever materialized. But we can speculate where she didn't: Was this yet another hack-and-dump operation aimed, quite specifically, at damaging Trump's election opponent?
How do we explain Giuliani's front-and-center appearance here?
From the beginning, few news outlets besides the New York Post were willing to touch this story because from the computer repairman himself to the specifics of what was allegedly found and how, all of it looked like a hack and dump. Republicans have bellowed in outrage at how little traction the story is getting in the media even now that the data is supposedly "confirmed" to be Hunter's. But that's not surprising either; it's almost certainly the result of criminal hacking.
Oh, and there also hasn't been much found on the laptop that wasn't already known: Hunter Biden has suffered through addiction, has spent substantial cash on drugs and sex workers, and has muddled through his troubled life slightly better than most addicts might due to his perceived closeness to his well-connected father. But it would be a hell of a thing if this episode turned out to be exactly the Giuliani-assisted foreign operation it appeared to be from the moment the New York Post wrote it up.
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