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Wisconsin GOP says hackers stole $2.3M

Wisconsin GOP says hackers stole $2.3M

The Republican Party of Wisconsin on Thursday said hackers had stolen $2.3 million as part of a recent cyberattack.

“Cybercriminals, using a sophisticated phishing attack, stole funds intended for the re-election of President TrumpDonald John TrumpBiden to nominate Linda Thomas-Greenfield for UN ambassador: reports Scranton dedicates 'Joe Biden Way' to honor president-elect Kasich: Republicans 'either in complete lockstep' or 'afraid' of Trump MORE, altered invoices and committed wire fraud,” Wisconsin GOP Chairman Andrew Hitt said in a statement provided to The Hill on Thursday.

“These criminals exhibited a level of familiarity with state party operations at the end of the campaign to commit this crime,” Hitt said. “While a large sum of money was stolen, our operation is running at full capacity with all the resources deployed to ensure President Donald J. Trump carries Wisconsin on November 3rd.”

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According to Hitt, the Wisconsin GOP discovered it had been the victim of a successful phishing attack on the night of Oct. 22, and that the party notified the FBI the next day of the attack. Hitt noted that the hackers stole the funds through the use of doctored invoices labeled as being from “WisGOP vendors.”

There is no evidence that any sensitive data was stolen or accessed by the hackers beyond the money that was taken. 

A spokesperson for the FBI declined to comment on or confirm an investigation into the hacking incident.

The disclosure of the attack comes less than a week before Election Day, and as concerns around election security have ramped up. 

Director of National Intelligence John RatcliffeJohn Lee RatcliffeProfiles in cowardice: Trump's Senate enablers Biden considering King for director of national intelligence: report Haspel not in attendance at latest Trump intelligence briefing: reports MORE, FBI Director Christopher Wray, and other federal officials announced last week that Iranian and Russian actors had gained access to U.S. voter registration data, and that the Iranian individuals were using this data to send threatening emails to voters in at least three states. 

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Acting Senate Intelligence Committee Chairman Marco RubioMarco Antonio RubioDemocrats brush off calls for Biden to play hardball on Cabinet picks GOP senator congratulates Biden, says Trump should accept results GOP lawmaker patience runs thin with Trump tactics MORE (R-Fla.) underlined interference concerns, warning Wednesday that adversaries would likely attempt to interfere either directly before or after Election Day. 

“WARNING. The bulk of disinformation attacks prepared by our adversaries were designed for the days before & just after Election Day,” Rubio tweeted. "They may come faster than they can be spotted & called out, so word to the wise, the more outlandish the claim, the likelier it’s foreign influence.”

At the local level, The Wall Street Journal reported Thursday that hackers had released a portion of stolen election-related documents recently obtained from Hall County, Georgia, in an effort to force election officials to pay a ransom. 

Ransomware attacks have been an increasing concern for election officials in 2020, with attacks locking down systems across sectors, including government networks in cities including New Orleans and Baltimore, and increasingly targeting vulnerable hospitals during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Election security has been an issue of constant focus and debate since the 2016 presidential election, when Russian agents launched a sweeping and sophisticated campaign designed to sway the election toward now-President Trump, including disinformation efforts on social media platforms, and cyber targeting of election infrastructure in all 50 states. 

Federal officials have emphasized in recent weeks that while U.S. elections are a target for adversaries, many strides forward have been made since the 2016 Russian interference efforts. 

“We’re now in the final stretch of the election and tens of millions of voters have already cast their votes free from foreign interference,” Christopher Krebs, the director of the Department of Homeland Security’s Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency, said in a statement last week. “We remain confident that no foreign cyber actor can change your vote, and we still believe that it would be incredibly difficult for them to change the outcome of an election at the national level.”