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Cyber Showdown

How Russian Hacking Works

A close-up of the head of a "Cyber Horse," made from thousands of infected computer and cell phone bits, is seen on display at the entrance to the annual Cyberweek conference at Tel Aviv University, Israel June 20, 2016. Amir Cohen / Reuters

When Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov was asked about Russia’s potential involvement in the recent hack of Democratic National Committee emails, he appeared genuinely surprised, just stopping short of giving a four-letter word in response. Indeed, the most amazing thing in this rapidly escalating showdown between Russia and the United States is that Lavrov was probably not acting. Apparently, he had not been consulted.

Since the annexation of Crimea, something strange has happened in the Russian government’s handling of sensitive issues, both inside and outside of the country. Many Western diplomats noted that the Russian Foreign Ministry is no longer in charge of defining policy for Ukraine or Syria. Inside of the country, meanwhile, Russian President Vladimir Putin has replaced politicians in key government offices with his own bodyguards. Regional governors are so stupefied by the purges the Kremlin started last September (there are already three governors under

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