The United States sees evidence that hackers, possibly working for foreign governments, are snooping on the presidential candidates, the nation’s intelligence chief said on Wednesday. Government officials are working with the campaigns to tighten security as the race for the White House intensifies. The activity follows a pattern set in the last two presidential elections. Hacking was rampant in 2008, according to US intelligence officials, and both Barack Obama and Mitt Romney were targets of Chinese cyber-attacks four years later. Despite that history, cyber experts say neither Donald Trump’s nor Hillary Clinton’s campaign networks are secure enough to eliminate the risk. “We’ve already had some indications” of hacking, James Clapper, the director of national intelligence, said Wednesday at a cybersecurity event at the Bipartisan Policy Center in Washington. He said the FBI and the Department of Homeland Security were helping educate the campaigns. Of the attacks, Clapper predicted, “we’ll probably have more”.
Brian P Hale, Clapper’s director of public affairs, later attempted to clarify the remarks, saying: “We’re aware that campaigns and related organizations and individuals are targeted by actors with a variety of motivations – from philosophical differences to espionage – and capabilities – from defacements to intrusions. We defer to FBI for specific incidents.”
The revelation comes after Clapper’s office released a document earlier this month saying foreign intelligence services tracked the 2008 presidential election cycle “like no other”. The document was part of a slideshow used to warn incoming Obama administration officials that their new jobs could make them prey for foreign spies.
Eight years ago, foreign intelligence services “met with campaign contacts and staff, used human source networks for policy insights, exploited technology to get otherwise sensitive data, engaged in perception management to influence policy”, the document said. “This exceeded traditional lobbying and public diplomacy.”