Hackers, trolls and the fight over your vote in the 2018 midterm elections | Cyber Security
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It’s not as intense as in 2016, as far as we know. But there are plenty of indications that the hacking and social media manipulation techniques used then are still going on. Hackers have been busted trying to steal passwords from the staff of US senators, and social media companies have been deleting hundreds of accounts they say are associated with coordinated misinformation campaigns.
The stakes are high. Even though the US isn’t voting on its next president, voters are preparing to decide 33 US Senate seats races, as well as all 435 seats in the House. There are also 36 races for governor, and three more in US territories too.
As to how bad hacking could be, the US Department of Homeland Security and other US intelligence agencies have said they’re bracing for more of the same.
“The intelligence community has said we have every reason to expect that this foreign influence activity will continue,” Jeanette Manfra, the chief cybersecurity official at DHS, told CNET in an interview in February.
So now’s the time for a refresher course on what happened in 2016 and how it applies to what’s going on now. The information comes from intelligence agencies, cybersecurity experts and social media companies that are still dealing with the fallout of 2016 while also keeping tabs on what hackers and trolls are up to today.
Hacked political organizations in 2016
Let’s start with the hacking. In 2016, the Russian government allegedly ran a hacking campaign that targeted major US political organizations and staff members of Hillary Clinton’s presidential campaign.
Those hackers leaked sensitive emails through WikiLeaks and Russian-controlled websites, which caused significant political fallout, such as the resignation of Democratic National Committee chair Debbie Wasserman Schultz and backlash over Clinton’s previously private speeches to bankers at Goldman Sachs. It also fed conspiracy theories like Pizzagate, which grew on social media sites like Twitter and Reddit, and eventually led to one man to fire a gun at the Washington DC pizza parlor named by conspiracists in the hoax.
Russian hackers also tried, sometimes successfully, to hack into the voter registration systems of 21 states. Russia has denied it targeted the US elections in 2016 with a campaign of hacking and influence ever since the news first broke.
Hacked political organizations in 2018
Hackers have been caught with their hands in the cookie jar again in 2018. In particular, they attempted to steal usernames and passwords from the staff of three sitting US senators who are running for re-election, according to Tom Burt, Microsoft’s vice president of customer security and trust.
One of the senators was Missouri Democrat Claire McCaskill, and the other two senators’ identities aren’t known. McCaskill said the hacking attempt wasn’t successful.