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National Republican Congressional Committee Says It Was Hacked During Midterms
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5 Dec 2018 03:13 PM EST

By Laura Tucker, Staff writer; Image: U.S. Capitol (Image source: Martin Falbisoner via Wikimedia Commons)

 

 

While House Republicans suffered a loss in the midterm elections in terms of the number of seats they will hold through this next term, it was announced on Tuesday that their campaign organization was hacked during the election cycle, reminiscent to many of the knowledge of the Russians' interference in the 2016 presidential election. 

It's unknown if the Russians, or any other foreign government was behind the hacking of the computer networks of the National Republican Congressional Committee, according to a person familiar with the case.

 

What is known is that the hacker was "sophisticated, based on their tactics and methods" and that the interference "was clearly designed to hide the tracks of who it was."  

None of the House Republicans, including Speaker Paul Ryan (R-WI), were told of the security breach until after it was reported to POLITICO and they asked the committee questions about the interference.

 

"The NRCC can confirm that it was the victim of a cyber intrusion by an unknown entity," said committee spokesman Ian Prior. 

"They 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," added Prior. "To protect the integrity of that investigation, the NRCC will offer no further comment on the incident."

 

This breach was first discovered in April, according to a source familiar with the interference. Officials embarked on an internal investigation and contacted the FBI within days to give "the FBI everything they asked for."  

The committee had previously retained CrowdStrike, a cybersecurity firm, but the breach was discovered by a different firm that was providing "managed security services" to specifically search for breaches.

 

The committee chose not to publicize the breach as officials were working to disguise the investigation so that they didn't tip off the hackers. "It gets out and becomes harder to investigate," explained the source. 

It's not likely there was any personal information that was gathered in the breach because that would have required that the victims be notified under state law, said cybersecurity lawyer Michael Sussmann, who handled the breach of the Democratic National Committee in 2016.

 

The most recent breach shares similarities with the 2016 breach, but the main difference is that the Russians gave the emails to WikiLeaks which published them before the Democratic National Convention. 

A National Security Council official in the Obama administration who is now president of a crisis communications firm, Brett Bruen, believes the committee made a mistake in not publishing the breach earlier.

 

"The information extracted from this operation could have been of extremely high value for foreign intelligence services," he said. 

"It will provide them with critical insights into the plans, weakness, and interests of key GOP officials and candidates. By not being transparent about this clear vulnerability to our democracy, the NRCC placed the interests of party over those of the country."

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