Encrypted messages. Two-factor authentication. Real-time monitoring of social media for malicious internet bot activity. This is the new reality for candidates running in 2018, scared of email hacks and elaborate misinformation schemes like the ones Russia used to disrupt the 2016 campaign. And many candidates say they’re concerned they can’t rely on Congress or the White House for advice, or protection. “Since many in Washington continue to bury their head in the sand over the dangers our Democracy faces, our campaign has taken deliberate steps to guard against cyberattacks by mandating extensive security measures,” said Gareth Rhodes, a Democrat running for an upstate New York House seat. He said he’s put his campaign staff through training on how to identify phishing and hacking attempts.
The horror of 2016’s hacked emails is still fresh for most operatives. Democratic lawmakers saw their cellphone numbers splashed online. Democratic National Committee chairwoman Debbie Wasserman Schultz resigned before the convention. The hacks even prompted a North Carolina man to storm a Washington pizzeria with an assault rifle, based on an internet conspiracy theory that started with Clinton campaign chairman John Podesta’s emails.
Since then, the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee has been hosting cybersecurity briefings for its candidates and staff, pushing campaigns to use encrypted messaging and two-factor authentication. The National Republican Congressional Committee, or NRCC, has hired multiple cybersecurity staffers to work with its candidates and promises to do more.