A new reality has set in to political campaigns: Candidates must expect that their private email accounts will be hacked, and the contents splashed onto the internet, possibly squandering their chances of victory or exposing personal secrets. Email hacking is now an entrenched tactic for practitioners of political sabotage. “I think it’s here to stay. I don’t see it changing,” said Richard Ford, chief scientist at Forcepoint, an Austin, Texas, cybersecurity company. Whether politicians are swapping tales of town halls, dishing on their opponents or sharing intimacies with spouses — or others — they now know that a private conversation can explode on to the internet.
Sitting senators have responded in different ways. “I usually keep my emails pretty well minimized,” said Sen. Jon Tester, a Montana Democrat who is up for re-election in a state that President Donald Trump won in 2016. “Most of them I dump as soon as I get them.”
Tester said the Senate uses a two-step authentication process to sign on. “But are we where we need to be? We can never put enough due diligence to this because I think they’re going to continue to hack,” he said.
If anecdotes are any indication, some senators rely less on email than before. “If I have anything sensitive to discuss, that’s why God made telephones,” said Sen. John Kennedy, a Louisiana Republican, quickly adding, “but even then, that may not be safe.”