Dutch intelligence officials provided the FBI with crucial evidence that helped pave the way for the bureau's probe into Russian interference in the 2016 election, according to Dutch media reports.
After digging themselves by chance into the Russians' computer network run out of a university building near Moscow's Red Square, the Dutch agents also gained access to the security cameras surveilling the room.
Apparently, the Dutch penetrated a security camera in the corridor leading to the hackers' office, giving the counter-spies a view of everyone who came and went - information that was shared with U.S. intelligence.
AIVD also provided valuable information to the United States.
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De Volkskrant, who described the AIVD breach as a "fluke", reported that the Dutch hackers were also able to gain access to surveillance cameras within the Cozy Bear headquarters, allowing them to associate known Russian spies to the group.
Cozy Bear has been linked to other cyberattacks on governments, telecom corporations and energy companies around the world, including in Germany and the Netherlands. Mueller's team has spent the past eight months interviewing members of Trump's campaign and White House staff, and has issued four indictments, with two guilty pleas. But American intelligence agencies have said "with high confidence" they believe the Kremlin was behind the attack on the Democratic Party.
According to the report, AIVD's hackers no longer have access to Cozy Bear's computer systems. But on Friday, a Russian presidential spokesman dismissed it as adding "fuel to the fire of anti-Russian hysteria". The United States agencies were able to shut down the Russian attacks in 24 hours. "Hacker groups frequently change their methods and even a different firewall can cut off access", the report said. However, the news outlets reported that Dutch officials were angered by the unnamed sources in the Washington Post report as that may have compromised the Dutch team. An information and technology sharing arrangement with the National Security Agency and other United States intelligence agencies resulted in the determination that Cozy Bear's efforts were at least in part being driven by the Russian Federation's leadership-including Russian President Vladimir Putin.