Several computer experts have discovered irregular communication between a server belonging to the Trump Organization and two servers of Alfa Bank, the largest private commercial bank of Russia, over a period of four months within the year.
The exclusive Slate report does not indicate what kind of communication was passed between the servers. The data that was sent may have been spam emails, but according to experts, the patterns of the communications are consistent with emails sent out by humans.
The Trump Organization server that was discovered was set up in a weird way, according to Christopher Davis of HYAS InfoSec. The high-capacity server, which had a history of sending out mass emails for Trump products and properties, now only handles a strangely small traffic load. Pings to the server also led to error messages, showing that it was set to only accept communication coming from a small list of IP addresses.
The experts found that 87 percent of the DNS lookups carried out by the server involved the two servers of Alfa Bank.
"These organizations are communicating in a way designed to block other people out," L. Jean Camp of Indiana University said.
"The parties were communicating in a secretive fashion," said DNS expert Paul Vixie, adding that the setup is similar to how criminal organizations operate when planning something.
When the researchers analyzed the server on a timeline, the activity was revealed to have spiked during crucial moments in the ongoing U.S. presidential campaign, such as during the Republican and Democratic national conventions.
The report added that when the Trump Organization launched a new host name on Sept. 27, the Alfa Bank server was the first one to be able to contact it. Experts said that the Alfa Bank would only have known the new host name if it was directly contacted regarding the change.
The Trump campaign has denied that the Trump Organization is connected in any way not only to the Alfa Bank but also to any Russian entity. According to Hope Hicks, the press secretary for the Trump campaign, the server is not a secret one, and it was set up for marketing purposes. Hicks added that the server has not been used since 2010, with the Alfa Bank traffic being described to be regular DNS server traffic and not email traffic.
An Alfa Bank spokesperson has similarly denied the allegations.
The Clinton campaign, however, did not waste time to pounce on the report. It declared that the Slate report comes as "the most direct link yet between Donald Trump and Moscow."
Were the data and server logs faked? According to experts, it would be impossible to do so, as skilled programmers would likely not be able to reproduce the thousands of records with their nuances.
This is not the first time that Russia has been reported to be getting involved with the presidential election. In August, an attempt by Russian hackers to breach the Moscow bureau of the New York Times and the successful infiltration of voter registration databases in Illinois and Arizona were reported. Last month, the United States officially accused Russia of launching hacks to interfere with the presidential elections.