By Michael Balsamo, AP

WASHINGTON (AP) — Thousands of emails were stolen from aides to the National Republican Congressional Committee during the 2018 midterm campaign, a major breach exposing vulnerabilities that have kept cybersecurity experts on edge since the 2016 presidential race.

The email accounts were compromised during a series of intrusions that had been spread over several months and discovered in April, a person familiar with the matter told The Associated Press. At least four different party aides had their emails surveilled by hackers, said the person, who was not authorized to discuss the details publicly and spoke on condition of anonymity.

The committee said an “unknown entity” was behind the hack but provided few other details. A cybersecurity firm and the FBI have been investigating the matter, the committee said. The FBI declined to comment.

Politically motivated cyberespionage is commonplace across the world, but Americans have become particularly alert to the possibility of digital interference since Russia’s meddling in the 2016 election. The theft of Democrats’ emails is still fresh in the minds of many political operatives and lawmakers, who have stepped up defensive measures but still struggle to protect themselves.

Foreign spies routinely try to hack into politicians’ emails to gain insight, ferret out weaknesses and win a diplomatic edge. But hackers often launch sweeping spear-phishing campaigns to gain access to a variety accounts — with no political motivation. With no immediate suspects and few technical details, it’s unclear what the significance of this latest incursion is.

In August, the Democratic National Committee thought it had thwarted an attempt to break into its massive voter database — but the effort turned out to be unauthorized test that mimicked what an attack would look like.

CrowdStrike, a California-based cybersecurity company, said Tuesday the NRCC asked the company in April to “perform an investigation related to unauthorized access” to the committee’s emails. Before that, the company had been helping the committee protect its internal corporate network, which wasn’t compromised.

Read the full story on the Associated Press website.

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