FBI investigated cyberattacks targeting Dem opponent to Rohrabacher: report

Greg Nash

The FBI reportedly investigated a series of cyberattacks against a Democratic candidate seeking to challenge incumbent Rep. Dana Rohrabacher (R-Calif.) earlier this year.

Rolling Stone reported Wednesday, citing documents and interviews with campaign officials, that Democrat Hans Keirstead was targeted by hackers during his congressional bid starting with a phishing attempt in August 2017.

{mosads}Keirstead fell 125 votes short in the June 5 nonpartisan “top two” primary for the seat in California’s 48th Congressional District. He has endorsed fellow Democrat Harley Rouda, who is challenging Rohrabacher in November’s general election.

Rohrabacher is considered one of the most pro-Russia members of Congress and is a vocal supporter of President Trump.

Rolling Stone noted that the source of the cyberattacks targeting Keirstead, who is a stem cell scientist, is unclear.

The agency did not comment for Rolling Stone’s report, and Rohrabacher’s campaign didn’t respond to requests to comment for the story.

The FBI declined The Hill’s request for comment.

“It is clear from speaking with campaign professionals around the country that the sustained attacks the Keirstead for Congress campaign faced were not unique but have become the new normal for political campaigns in 2018,” Keirstead’s former campaign manager, Kyle Quinn-Quesada, told Rolling Stone.

Quinn-Quesada added that the campaign did not believe that the cyberattacks had an impact on the primary election results.

The magazine reported that Keirstead was first targeted in August 2017, when he received the phishing email to his work account and entered his password, before realizing it was a fake message. He then ordered his office to strengthen its email security efforts.

Rolling Stone reported that hackers or bots aggressively tried to access the campaign’s website and tried to gain administrator access to its server through the cloud-server company hosting the website, but were unsuccessful.

Unknown individuals also unsuccessfully attempted to access the campaign’s Twitter account in January, according to the magazine, and Keirstead’s biomedical research company was also briefly hacked during the same month.

Quinn-Quesada told Rolling Stone that he informed the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee (DCCC) and the FBI about the attempted cyberattacks, including the successful phishing attempt on the candidate’s work email account.

Emails obtained by the magazine show that the DCCC’s top IT executive and the group’s chief of staff were both told of the attempted attacks and that the organization shared the information with the FBI. 

The DCCC did not immediately return The Hill’s request for comment.

The targeting of Keirstead’s campaign is the latest report of attempted hacks in the 2018 midterm elections. The Daily Beast first reported last month that staffers for Sen. Claire McCaskill (D-Mo.) were targeted by Russian hackers. McCaskill is one of three targeted candidates first referenced by a Microsoft executive last month.

A Microsoft spokesperson declined to tell Rolling Stone if Keirstead was one of the three candidates, citing customer privacy.

Special counsel Robert Mueller last month indicted 12 Russian military officers in the 2016 hack of the Democratic National Committee.

Updated at 4:57 p.m.

Tags campaign Claire McCaskill cyberattacks Dana Rohrabacher Dana Rohrabacher Donald Trump Robert Mueller

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