GOP campaign arm reports ‘cyber intrusion’

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WASHINGTON | The National Republican Congressional Committee said Tuesday that it was victim of a “cyber intrusion” during the 2018 midterm campaigns and has reported the breach to the FBI.

The committee released very little detail about the incident, but said the intrusion was conducted by an “unknown entity.”

“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,” spokesman Ian Prior said in a statement. “To protect the integrity of that investigation, the NRCC will offer no further comment on the incident.”

FILE – In this July 24, 2018 file photo, House Speaker Paul Ryan of Wis., attends a news conference following a GOP caucus meeting on Capitol Hill in Washington. As Ryan bows out of Congress, he leaves no obvious heir apparent. House Republicans are scrambling to salvage their majority but also confronting a potentially messy GOP leadership battle regardless of which party controls the chamber after the November election. (AP Photo/Jacquelyn Martin)

The FBI did not immediately respond to a request for comment. Politico first reported the breach in cybersecurity.

The severity and circumstances of the hacking were not made public. Politically motivated cyberespionage is typical throughout the world, but Americans have become particularly alert to the potential of digital interference following the 2016 election. That hack is still fresh in the minds of many political operatives.

In March 2018, NRCC Chairman Steve Stivers said the committee hired multiple cybersecurity staffers to work with its candidates and promised to do more.

“We’re starting to advise campaigns, but we’re not ready to roll the whole thing out. We’re working on it,” Stivers said at the time. “We’re working on the technology-based stuff to try and make sure that we know what’s out there — which is hard, too — and then we try to defend against it the best we can.”

In August, Microsoft informed the public of attempts by government-backed Russian hackers to target U.S. conservatives’ email by setting up fake websites that appeared to be owned a pair of think tanks, the Hudson Institute and International Republican Institute. It also confirmed an attempt similarly attributed to Russian hackers to infiltrate the Senate computer network of Sen. Claire McCaskill, the Missouri Democrat who lost a re-election bid in November.

Google later confirmed in September that the personal Gmail accounts of multiple senators and staffers had recently been targeted by foreign hackers, though it did not specify the cyberspies’ nationality nor the party affiliations of the targets.

During the 2016 presidential campaign, Russian state-aligned hackers organized the leak of more than 150,000 emails stolen from more than a dozen Democrats. The FBI later said that the Russians had targeted more than 300 people affiliated with the Hillary Clinton campaign and other Democratic institutions over the course of the presidential contest.