Law

Sources: FBI aware of several GOP-aimed hacks

Kelly Wright reports

 

The FBI is aware of several election-related hacks of GOP officials and surrogates, law enforcement sources tell Fox News.

While Fox News is told there is no evidence to suggest an intrusion of the broader Republican National Committee, these sources say numerous GOP-aligned individuals have been targeted by hackers.

This follows a series of high-profile cyberattacks targeting Democratic institutions, including the Democratic National Committee and Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee, as well as the targeting of the Illinois and Arizona election systems.

These sources say the activity folds into what is described as a massive hacking campaign – believed to be carried out by Russian hackers – targeting D.C. operatives and members of both sides of the aisle with the presumed goal of seizing confidential information regarding the 2016 election season.

While the GOP-targeted activity does not rise to the scale of the Democratic-aimed hacks, one such source told Fox News these actors are trying to seize information from “everyone in this town” to draw a roadmap to the election.

Additionally, Fox News is told many of these successful compromises are coming by way of phishing attacks, where hackers target individuals or organizations with seemingly authentic emails that direct the receiver to click a tainted link or open an attachment that is actually embedded with malicious computer software, or malware.

As a matter of practice, Fox News is told the FBI maintains lines of communication with officials from both main political parties in an effort to insulate them from any potential cyberattacks and to demonstrate best practices.

The FBI would not comment on this activity.

U.S. officials have attempted to quell concerns over the susceptibility of the nation’s election system to cyberattacks. Speaking at different conferences in Washington, D.C., last week, the head of the FBI and the secretary of Homeland Security both dismissed the idea that hackers could easily skew a vote tally.

FBI Director James Comey, addressing an audience at the Intelligence and National Security Summit, said that the “dispersed and clunky” nature of the U.S. election system would make it hard for a hacker to alter the vote count. DHS Secretary Jeh Johnson told Fox News last week he has “a lot of confidence” in the security of U.S. electoral infrastructure. 

The U.S. government has yet to publicly acknowledge Russia as the perpetrator of these cyberattacks. Russian President Vladimir Putin has denied any involvement.

Asked why, given a pile of public analysis suggesting that Russia is behind these attacks, the United States has not taken action against the Kremlin, Comey suggested it may be taking place behind the scenes.

“We have a variety of tools that we as a government use to try and deter behavior on the Internet outside of norms,” Comey said on Wednesday. “Just because you can’t see something doesn’t mean that your government’s not doing something to try and change behavior.” 

Matthew Dean is Fox News Channel's Department of Justice & Federal Law Enforcement producer. Follow him on Twitter @MattFirewall.