The digital operations team at the Democratic National Committee hit some dark days after Russian hackers mauled their networks in 2016, hijacking dozens of computers and pilfering tens of thousands of emails to hand over to WikiLeaks and onto the internet. Remnants of that digital bruising linger. “I feel like everyone’s still feeling, like, the PTSD from ’16,” said Raffi Krikorian, who now is the chief technology officer for a newly beefed-up unit of the Democratic National Committee, referring to post-traumatic stress disorder. The mood today of the DNC’s tech security team is one of cautious vigilance. The unit has grown in size and now employs cybersecurity experts who have come from some of the biggest Silicon Valley companies. Every day, the security team spots anomalies and strange behavior that could indicate a new cyberattack.
In 2016, the hackers didn’t just breach the digital barricades of the DNC. They virtually feasted in the kitchen, leered at the occupants and hung out the dirty laundry. In addition to controlling the network, they stole more than 50,000 emails from the private account of Hillary Clinton’s campaign chairman, John Podesta, leaking everything from strategy memos to emails between Podesta and his wife, and even a favored creamy risotto recipe.
The disclosures were deeply embarrassing to the party and was one of the factors leading to the party’s defeat in the 2016 elections.
“I am aware that there are entities that are probing and that are looking to get a foothold,” said Bob Lord, the DNC’s chief security officer who has handled major breaches at Twitter and Yahoo.