Last year, a small group of computer scientists obtained internet traffic records from the complex system that serves as the internet's phone book. Access to these records is reserved for highly trusted cybersecurity firms and companies that provide this lookup service.
These signals were captured as they traveled along the internet's Domain Name System (DNS).
These leaked records show that Alfa Bank servers repeatedly looked up the unique internet address of a particular Trump Organization computer server in the United States.
Alfa Bank is of course a Russian bank, but I bet you figured that out all on your own.
And what did this small group of computer scientists find that troubles them so?
From May 4 until September 23, the Russian bank looked up the address to this Trump corporate server 2,820 times -- more lookups than the Trump server received from any other source.
As noted, Alfa Bank alone represents 80% of the lookups, according to these leaked internet records.
Well, isn't THAT interesting?
That is a hell of a lot of lookups just to be a coincidence, but that is exactly how the Alfa Bank characterized them:
Alfa Bank has maintained that the most likely explanation is that the server communication was the result of spam marketing. Bank executives have stayed at Trump hotels, so it's possible they got subsequent spam marketing emails from the Trump Organization. Those emails might have set off defensive cybersecurity measures at the bank, whose servers would respond with a cautious DNS lookup. Alfa Bank said it used antispam software from Trend Micro, whose tools would do a DNS lookup to know the source of the spam.
2,820 responses to spam in less than five months? That really does not pass the smell test:
"If it were spam, then a lot of other organizations would be doing DNS lookups. There would be evidence of widespread connectivity with devices," said L. Jean Camp, a computer scientist at Indiana University who has studied the data.
Now here is the other suspicious puzzle piece:
Far back in second place, with 714 such lookups, was a company called Spectrum Health.
Spectrum is a medical facility chain led by Dick DeVos, the husband of Betsy DeVos, who was appointed by Trump as U.S. education secretary.
Together, Alfa and Spectrum accounted for 99% of the lookups.
Spectrum Health joined with Alfa Bank in claiming that it was all spam related.
Nothing to see here, just move along.
Not so fast.
I am not sure what this means exactly, but if you developed a spam program to increase business and it only targeted two businesses, that would seem like a real waste of money in my book.
So I would agree with these computer scientists that this deserves a lot more scrutiny.
And it might very well have been receiving it since it was this server that Louise Mensch identified as the trigger which caused the FBI to seek a FISA warrant.