Hackers hounded the Democratic Party into the final days of the 2016 election, breaking into a server carrying critical voter data, according to a book published Tuesday.
The breach of the Democratic National Committee captured national attention when it was revealed by cybersecurity firm CrowdStrike in June 2016. But a tell-all account of the hacking by former interim DNC chief Donna Brazile reveals that the intrusions continued for months afterward and compromised some of the DNC’s most closely guarded information.
“The intruders had been sitting in our voter data files for months,” Brazile wrote in her book, “Hacks: The Inside Story of the Break-ins and Breakdowns that Put Donald Trump in the White House.”
Voter data files are among a political party’s most closely guarded secrets, guiding campaigners’ ground game and showing them whose doorbells to ring or whose numbers to call. Brazile said the hackers had not only copied data from the voter data files but “also could have manipulated what was there.”
The intrusion wasn’t found until Oct. 21, just over two weeks before the vote, when malicious software was discovered on a backup server codenamed Raider.
“Any malicious entity that gained access to Raider essentially had the keys to our whole digital kingdom,” Brazile wrote.
The DNC and CrowdStrike did not immediately return messages seeking comment.
Recent AP reporting has shown how hackers closely aligned with the Kremlin launched a sweeping digital assault against the Democratic Party, sending more than 400 password-stealing messages to 130 campaign staffers, DNC employees and Democratic operatives throughout the country between March and May of 2016.
Brazile’s account largely picks up where the AP left off, explaining how a team of between five and 10 Silicon Valley volunteers set up shop at the DNC in early autumn and fought off renewed attempts to break into the organization.
Brazile’s book doesn’t explicit identify the hackers involved, but Mike Murray, one of the volunteers, told The Associated Press he believed it was Fancy Bear — one of the two groups of hackers identified by CrowdStrike in June.
Murray, whose day job is working for mobile security firm Lookout, said the reappearance of hackers on the DNC’s network shows that clearing digital intruders from a network is “easier said than done.”
“Chemotherapy doesn’t always get all the cancer cells,” he said.
Brazile’s book also provides new details about the fear that swept through Democratic ranks in the wake of the hacking, revealing for example that the DNC was swept for listening devices — twice — in September and October 2016.
So concerned was Brazile about bugs that she said she had orchids removed from the chair’s office for fear that something had been planted in the pots.
By October, she said nearly $2 million had been spent remediating the hack. And while Brazile echoed previous reassurances from officials that there was no evidence that vote tallies had been tampered with, she said Americans need to do more to protect their elections.
“To this day it is astonishing to me that we do not treat this as a national emergency,” she said.