Hackers stole some $2.3 million from the Republican Party of Wisconsin’s campaign to re-elect President Trump in what one top official called a “sophisticated phishing attack,” a recent report said.
The cyber crew was apparently familiar with the GOP’s operations in Wisconsin and may have purposely timed the heist, which officials discovered on October 22, close to election day, Andrew Hitt, the political organization’s local chairman told The Hill. The hackers reportedly flipped the funds by altering invoices to label them as being from “WisGOP” vendors, he said.
Despite the large financial blast that Hitt disclosed a week afterward it occurred, the GOP’s operation in Wisconsin has returned back to normal, he said. Officials so far have not found any evidence that sensitive data was stolen or accessed. The Federal Bureau of Investigation was notified a day after the break-in but has not confirmed, according to The Hill, that it has opened an investigation. At this point, there are no suspects.
Wisconsin is among a handful of swing states whose results could decide the presidential election.
“These criminals exhibited a level of familiarity with state party operations at the end of the campaign to commit this crime,” Hitt said. “While a large sum of money was stolen, our operation is running at full capacity with all the resources deployed to ensure President Donald J. Trump carries Wisconsin on November 3rd.”
With the national election only a few days away, cybersecurity concerns and preparations have elevated. For example, Delaware Governor John Carney recently activated the state’s National Guard 166th special Cyberspace Operations Squadron to help protect the state’s voting infrastructure for the 2020 elections. Carney’s executive order preceded by a week proposed legislation introduced by Sens. Maggie Hassan (D-NH) and John Cornyn (R-TX) to enable state governors to enlist the National Guard to help safeguard critical election infrastructure at the state and local level. The bill would include cybersecurity operations and missions in the training of activated National Guard troops.
In addition, U.S. National Intelligence Director John Ratcliffe has warned that Russia and Iran have both tried to interfere with the 2020 presidential election. Foreign actors are seeking to undermine Americans’ confidence in the integrity of the vote and spread misinformation in an attempt to sway its outcome, Ratcliffe said. Both Iran and Russia have reportedly obtained U.S. voter registration information. Word has also surfaced that a database containing hundreds of millions of detailed records on U.S. voters and consumers is being offered for sale on several dark forums.
And, in mid October, Microsoft, aided by a group of security companies working in a tandem with the U.S. Cyber Command, said the group had dealt the massive, Russian-linked Trickbot operation a serious blow, slowing at least for a while the ransomware distributor’s worldwide malware campaigns. The highly targeted initiatives are largely a preemptive strike against what U.S. officials predict is the expected assault by Trickbot operatives on the presidential election.
Most recently, the Wall Street Journal reported that hackers had released some stolen election-related documents lifted from Hall County, Georgia, in a ransomware attack.