Elections

The Russians aren’t the first to hack into presidential politics

Hackers linked to Russian intelligence services broke into the DNC’s computer networks and gained access to confidential emails, chats and opposition research on presumptive Republican nominee Donald Trump, the party and an outside analyst said Tuesday, June 14, 2016.
Hackers linked to Russian intelligence services broke into the DNC’s computer networks and gained access to confidential emails, chats and opposition research on presumptive Republican nominee Donald Trump, the party and an outside analyst said Tuesday, June 14, 2016. AP

News that Russian government hackers had accessed the Democratic National Committee’s computer network ricocheted across Washington Tuesday, after the Washington Post reported that the hackers had access to internal communications and research for several months.

But the DNC hack is just the latest of several that have targeted presidential campaigns.

In 2012, Republican nominee Mitt Romney’s website was attacked by hackers, shutting down the site and preventing donations for a few hours.

Barack Obama and John McCain were also targeted by Chinese government-backed hackers during the 2008 presidential campaign, which sought access to emails and policy papers from advisors to both candidates.

McCain’s hackers accessed an unsent letter sympathetic to Taiwan, the China Post reported, prompting a Chinese diplomat to complain even though it had not been released publicly.

The diplomat called and “was putting me on notice that they knew this was going on," McCain adviser Randall Schriver said at the time, according to the China Post. "It certainly struck me as odd that they would be so well-informed."

The DNC also suffered another breach last year, but from within. Hillary Clinton’s campaign accused Sen. Bernie Sanders’ campaign in December of stealing confidential voter data at the DNC, prompting the Sanders campaign to eventually fire a data director and apologize for improperly accessing the voter information.

As recently as last month, government officials said Trump’s and Clinton’s campaign networks were vulnerable to outside attacks, the Associated Press reported.

James Clapper, director of national intelligence, said in May that authorities “already had some indications" of hacking occurring with both candidates and predicted more in the future.

The government has taken some steps toward securing past presidential campaigns from cyberattacks, with mixed success. V. Miller Newton of PKWARE, an encryption software company, told the AP that campaigns “are not working on encrypted platforms … It's a matter of when and how serious of an impact it is going to have on this election."

The DNC hack reported Tuesday allowed access to the committee’s internal emails and chats as well as its opposition research on Donald Trump, the Post reported. It was only discovered in late April, after staffers noticed atypical activity on the committee’s computer network.

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