DNC hack shows severe US vulnerability to cyber attacks
The big news this weekend was, of course, the hack of the Democratic National Committee emails. 20,000 emails exposed ordinarily wouldn’t even make the Top 5 list of data breaches for a given month, but this story has deservedly been catapulted to number one. Few breaches have had the political significance of the DNC’s dirty laundry, with the probable exception of the OPM hack and, to a lesser degree, North Korea’s suspected culpability in the Sony hack a couple of years ago. Especially if the researchers are correct in assigning responsibility to two Russian intelligence agencies, specifically the same groups behind previous attacks on American government entities.
The primary national question then becomes whether Russia, through Putin’s direct orders or the hackers’ own initiative, is trying to influence the presidential election, particularly in favor of Donald Trump, by way of embarrassing the Democrats. A secondary question, however, is whether we should care about the culprits at all, and instead just focus on the content of the emails, which tend to convey directives to use party machinery to discredit the Bernie Sanders campaign. Not that this would be surprising, but the evidence seems to be there.
This is a tech blog, though, so I’m not going to step into that muck. From a security perspective, the most concerning aspect of this is the continued ease with which foreign cybercriminals can infiltrate supposedly protected government networks. Already, they’ve compromised the personal information of countless military personnel, government employees, etc. The notion of their actions potentially having such a colossal effect on an already tumultuous (to phrase it lightly) election cycle just tells me that we haven’t improved enough when it comes to protecting our most critical databases.
Particularly if there is truth to what we’ve learned within the last 24 hours: that federal investigators warned the DNC for months that there was a potential intrusion. Eventually, officials did hire outside help, but it was too little, too late. “But these hackers are so sophisticated that they changed procedures,” said DNC chairwoman Donna Brazile to Wolf Blitzer. And it’s true, if this coupled with other breaches at the White House and State Department—also suspected to be part of a surge of Russian cyber attacks—is any indication.
Regardless of your affiliation or who you’re voting for, the repeated failures of our national cybersecurity defenses against external intruders should be disappointing and concerning.