Democrats are seizing on recent revelations that the House GOP’s campaign arm was hacked earlier this year to spotlight that both parties are vulnerable to cyberattacks.
The FBI is investigating a cyber breach at the National Republican Congressional Committee (NRCC) that felt like déjà vu to many in Washington — hackers targeting political campaign groups.
This time, however, the perpetrators aimed their digital tools at the GOP instead of Democrats.
Four top aides at the NRCC — which was notified in April about the breach — learned that their emails had been surveilled for months.
Ian Prior, a public relations professional hired by the NRCC to oversee its response to the breach, confirmed the cyber intrusion.
“The NRCC can confirm that it was the victim of a cyber intrusion by an unknown entity,” said Prior, a former Justice Department official, in an email to The Hill. “The cybersecurity of the Committee’s data is paramount, and upon learning of the intrusion, the NRCC immediately launched an internal investigation and notified the FBI, which is now investigating the matter.”
Hackers likely breached a hosted email environment as a result of a password compromise, according to a source familiar with the matter.
The attack serves as a stark reminder that the targets of a cyberattack are fluid and changing.
Cyber security expert Erik Knight warned both parties earlier this year that 2016 was just the beginning.
“Hacking is really a police absent business, there is almost no enforcement especially on foreign soil,” Knight told JimHeath.TV. “Most of the courts and lawmakers don’t really understand what’s going on.”
Democrats are now waving their fingers at Republicans for not heeding their warnings after the intelligence community concluded that Russia interfered in the 2016 presidential race.
Back then Democrats told their GOP counterparts: It’s us this time, but you could be next.
Democrats are also resurfacing comments President Trump made earlier this year in which he asserted that Republicans have better cybersecurity after a series of damaging attacks against Democrats, including the ones on the Democratic National Committee (DNC) and John Podesta, who was campaign manager for former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton’s presidential bid.
“The DNC should be ashamed of themselves for allowing themselves to be hacked. They had bad defenses and they were able to be hacked,” Trump told CBS News earlier this year. “I heard they were trying to hack the Republicans too, but — and this may be wrong — but they had much stronger defenses.”
Former FBI Director James Comey told Congress last year that while hackers successfully breached an old Republican National Committee server during the election, their efforts to target the GOP paled in comparison to the Kremlin’s efforts to go after Democrats in 2016. While Russia-linked hackers infiltrated other Republican targets, the hackers did not leak those stolen files.
The NRCC hack has also resurfaced questions about how political groups should respond when their opponents fall victim to a cyberattack.
Earlier this year, the two parties were reportedly in talks about how both sides would work together in the face of a politically motivated cyberattack, but those discussions fell apart after Republicans refused to agree not to use hacked materials, saying leaked information would be fair game to use if it became public.
It’s unclear if any information was stolen during the NRCC hack, but no data or emails have been publicly released like they were in 2016 with the DNC and Podesta hacks.