With some 40 days remaining to the crucial midterm elections, signs of digital meddling in campaigns are mounting. But most candidates have spent little or nothing on cybersecurity, and say it’s too hard and expensive to focus on hacking threats with all the other demands of running for office. Only six candidates for U.S. House and Senate spent more than $1,000 on cybersecurity through the most recent Federal Election Commission filing period. Yet those who monitor intrusions and digital mayhem say hackers are active. And various reports cite at least three candidates still in races or ousted in primaries were suffering attempted breaches of their campaigns. “We get things literally every day to my team … to investigate everything from phishing attacks to ‘We think our data was breached’ to ‘We think there was a denial of service attack’ to ‘Someone’s listening on our cell phones.’ So we get, like, the whole range of things every single day,” said Raffi Krikorian, chief technology officer for the Democratic National Committee, the party’s governing body.
Krikorian wouldn’t provide further details of the meddling or say where the hacking originated. But the subject matter is a sensitive one, given that the DNC and the losing campaign of Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton were the victims of cyberattacks by Russian hackers who were trying to help Donald Trump win the presidency.
Even candidates deeply schooled in cybersecurity said the intense 24/7 nature of campaigning leaves them little time to raise money and buy technology to secure their cell phones, email networks and computers.
Jay Hulings , who ran for a U.S. House seat in West Texas’s 23rd Congressoinal District, knew that cybersecurity was important. Hulings had been a federal prosecutor and general counsel to the House intelligence committee, privy to classified secrets.
When Hulings mounted his campaign, he told his bare-bones staff to communicate through Signal, an encrypted messaging app, and avoid using email. Then reality sunk in. The staff expanded and the pace quickened.