Impersonator posing as Sanders campaign official attempted to arrange calls with Democratic candidates

Posted Saturday, 29 February 2020 ‐ CNN

(CNN)An impersonator posing as a Bernie Sanders campaign official contacted at least two other Democratic presidential campaigns in an attempt to arrange calls with their candidates. CNN on Friday obtained an email sent from a suspicious address to another Democratic campaign. The impersonator reached out to the campaign from a web address that was designed to look like it was part of the Sanders campaign, posing as scheduler and seeking to arrange a phone call between Sanders and the other candidate. "The Senator would like to discuss a few controversial issues relating to our primary campaign and to explain his position on some of these topics to clear up any misunderstandings we have. For example, about foreign dictators," the email read. "And also the Senator would like to explain his vision for the ongoing primary campaign."The email concludes with a request for "any additional details you think we should be aware of for our planning purposes." An email from the same domain address was sent to at least one other campaign, a source told CNN on Friday. Democratic National Committee chief security officer Bob Lord addressed the impersonation effort in a security alert sent to campaigns earlier this week, writing that the "impersonator posed as a staffer for the Sanders campaign seeking conversations with staff of at least two other campaigns."The web address, or domain name, used by the impersonator was registered in Russia, according to online records reviewed by CNN, but Lord reminded Democrats that "any individual can register a domain name in any particular country."Lord, in his alert, said impersonators sometimes "seek to set up a call or an in-person meeting with the intent to record and publish the interaction."News of the suspicious email activity comes amid heightened concerns over foreign interference in the 2020 elections. Sanders last week confirmed a Washington Post report that he had been briefed about a month earlier on Russian efforts to help his presidential campaign, intensifying concerns about the Kremlin's role in the US presidential race. It remains unclear how Russia is attempting to aid Sanders, or whether its actions are only seeking to disrupt the election process and enflame the Democratic primary.Sanders condemned Russia's attempts to interfere in US elections."Here's the message to Russia: stay out of American elections," Sanders said.When the Sanders campaign became aware of the false emails, they alerted the matter to the DNC, Mike Casca, Sanders campaign spokesman told CNN Friday. The DNC said in its advisory to the campaigns that it had contacted the "appropriate authorities." A spokeswoman for the FBI declined to comment on Friday. The Associated Press earlier reported details of the DNC security alert.CNN asked Kyle Ehmke, a senior threat intelligence researcher with the cybersecurity firm ThreatConnect, to review the web address the impersonator was using.Ehmke said it is "worth noting explicitly that just because the domain was registered through a Russian company, that does not indicate that the person who registered it is in or from Russia.""Do not use your personal mail account for official business," Lord wrote in the DNC warning, and asked campaigns to forward suspicious emails to the DNC.CNN's David Shortell contributed to this report

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