Clinton campaign hacked, adding to list of cyberattacks on Democrats

A group of former homeland-security officials said the hacks could put in jeopardy "the integrity of American democracy".

Alex Driehaus/
Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton and vice presidential candidate Tim Kaine wave during a rally at Broad Street Market in Harrisburg, Pa.

The list of Democratic institutions targeted by cyberattack is getting longer. Computer systems used by the campaign of Democratic presidential nominee Hillary Clinton were hacked in the same round of cyberattacks that broke into the servers of the Democratic National Committee and the party’s fundraising committee in the House of Representatives, Reuters reported on Friday.

The Justice Department’s national security division is conducting an ongoing investigation into whether the cyberattacks could have affected US security, in which sources said was a sign that the Obama administration has concluded that a state sponsor was behind the attacks. It’s one sign among many. Ahead of the investigation’s conclusion, President Barack Obama cited cybersecurity experts who said that most tracks led to Russian intelligence agencies. It was even “possible”, Obama told NBC, that the Russian government could be trying to swing US elections in favor of Republican nominee Donald Trump, whom it may see as potentially favorable for its interests.

The Clinton campaign denied that hackers had successfully broken into its systems in a statement on Friday, saying that while an “analytics data program maintained by the DNC and used by our campaign” had been accessed, a review by outside cybersecurity experts turned up “no evidence that our internal systems have been compromised.” One campaign official cited by Reuters said that the analytics program was one of several systems used by the Clinton campaign in its voter-analysis efforts, and does not include social security or credit card numbers.

The news came just hours after the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee confirmed that it had been targeted by a cyberattack, in what may have been an effort to steal information on party donors, reported The Hill. And it came a week after Wikileaks made public a series of emails between DNC officials indicating that they had plotted ways to tip the scales in favor of Mrs. Clinton over Sen. Bernie Sanders (I) of Vermont.

US security officials have issued full-throated condemnations of the attacks. On Thursday, a group of 32 former homeland-security and counterterrorism officials known as the Aspen Institute Homeland Security Group released a letter calling on the government to step up cybersecurity protections for political parties and electoral processes and “take prompt actions sufficient to hold those responsible” for the attacks accountable.“This is an attack not on one party but on the integrity of American democracy,” they wrote. “And it may not be the end of such attacks...This is not a partisan issue."

Earlier this week, Russia strongly denied involvement. “This is absolutely absurd,” said Kremlin spokesman Dmitri Peskov of the accusations, according to the Los Angeles Times, "and a vivid example of the use of Russophobia for the election purposes in the U.S. And this is absurd that borders on total stupidity." “This is not our problem, this is not our headache,” said Mr. Peskov. "Americans will have to sort out what are those massive [hacks] and what they are about and what problems the publication of these massive hacks brings about."

Some US lawmakers say that the leaking of hacked information risks turning dueling espionage operations into full-blown cyber-warfare. Rep. Adam B. Schiff (D) of California, ranking Democrat on the House Intelligence Committee, told the Washington Post that "the precedent has been set of operationalizing the mass leaking of the information, we’re in a whole new dangerous ballgame, with a level of brazen interference that we haven’t seen before."

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