The Truth About That ‘Missing Server’

The Truth About That ‘Missing Server’ July 19, 2018

The Daily Beast debunks the lie that Trump tells every time he feels the need to distract attention from the Mueller investigation or other troubles. That lie is the one about the DNC’s “missing server” that they “refused” to turn over to the FBI. That is flat wrong. The FBI has all the information they needed for that investigation.

The “server” Trump is obsessed with is actually 140 servers, most of them cloud-based, which the DNC was forced to decommission in June 2016 while trying to rid its network of the Russian GRU officers working to help Trump win the election, according to the figures in the DNC’s civil lawsuit against Russia and the Trump campaign. Another 180 desktop and laptop computers were also swapped out as the DNC raced to get the organization back on its feet and free of Putin’s surveillance.

But despite Trump’s repeated feverish claims to the contrary, no machines are actually missing.

It’s true that the FBI doesn’t have the DNC’s computer hardware. Agents didn’t sweep into DNC headquarters, load up all the equipment and leave Democrats standing stunned beside empty desks and dangling cables. There’s a reason for that, and it has nothing to do with a deep state conspiracy to frame Putin.

Trump and his allies are capitalizing on a basic misapprehension of how computer intrusion investigations work. Investigating a virtual crime isn’t a like investigating a murder. The Russians didn’t leave DNA evidence on the server racks and fingerprints on the keyboards. All the evidence of their comings and goings was on the computer hard drives, and in memory, and in the ephemeral network transmissions to and from the GRU’s command-and-control servers.

When cyber investigators respond to an incident, they capture that evidence in a process called “imaging.” They make an exact byte-for-byte copy of the hard drives. They do the same for the machine’s memory, capturing evidence that would otherwise be lost at the next reboot, and they monitor and store the traffic passing through the victim’s network. This has been standard procedure in computer intrusion investigations for decades. The images, not the computer’s hardware, provide the evidence.

None of this will affect Trump in any way, of course. If a claim helps him, he’ll repeat it, and repeat it, no matter how thoroughly it’s been shown to be a lie. He makes no distinction between claims that are true and false; claims are either useful to him or not useful to him, and that is the only standard he uses when deciding whether to make them. He makes Joe Isuzu look like Diogenes.

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