Wyden says foreign hackers targeted personal accounts of senators, staffers

Wyden says foreign hackers targeted personal accounts of senators, staffers
© Greg Nash

A Democratic senator said in a letter to Senate leaders Wednesday that the personal accounts of senators and their staffers have been targeted by foreign hackers, but that the Senate's security office "apparently lacks the authority" to guard against the threats.

Sen. Ron WydenRonald (Ron) Lee WydenOvernight Health Care: Senators seek CBO input on preventing surprise medical bills | Oversight panel seeks OxyContin documents | Pharmacy middlemen to testify on prices | Watchdog warns air ambulances can put patients at 'financial risk' Senate panel to hear from pharmacy middlemen on drug prices Congress should take action to stop unfair taxation of the digital economy MORE (Ore.) wrote in the letter that his office “has also discovered that at least one major technology company has informed a number of Senators and Senate staff members that their personal email accounts were targeted by foreign government hackers.”

The Associated Press first reported on the letter.

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It’s unclear which company the senator is referring to, or if these were previously reported incidents. Microsoft said earlier this year that it had identified and stopped hacking attempts against three congressional candidates in the 2018 midterms; Sen. Claire McCaskillClaire Conner McCaskillLobbying world Dem candidate has Hawley served subpoena at CPAC Annual scorecard ranks GOP environmental efforts far below Dems in 2018 MORE (D-Mo.) was later revealed to be one of those candidates.

The Hill has reached out to Wyden’s office for comment and clarification.

Wyden wrote in the letter that his office has learned that the foreign hackers, part of a hacking group of Russian military officers sometimes known as “Fancy Bear,” had targeted the personal email accounts of the senators and Senate staffers.

“Given the significance of this threat, I was alarmed to learn that SAA cybersecurity personnel apparently refused to help Senators and Senate staff after these attacks,” the letter reads, referring to the Senate Sergeant at Arms office.

The Hill has reached out to the security office for comment. A spokeswoman for the office declined to comment to the AP.

Wyden wrote in the letter that he will introduce legislation requiring the security office to help senators and members of their staff with cybersecurity for their personal devices and accounts.

He also asked the top senators to determine how many members of their caucuses have been told by technology companies that their accounts “were targeted by foreign government hackers.”

“The November election grows ever closer, Russia continues its attacks on our democracy, and the Senate simply does not have the luxury of further delays,” the senator wrote.

The Fancy Bear hackers were also believed to be behind an apparent phishing attempt targeting the Senate and a pair of conservative think tanks, also revealed by Microsoft earlier this year.

Special counsel Robert MuellerRobert Swan MuellerSasse: US should applaud choice of Mueller to lead Russia probe MORE in July indicted 12 Russian military officers for the 2016 hack of the Democratic National Committee.