The Growing List of Hackings Ahead of the 2018 Midterm Elections

The latest: Microsoft announced Tuesday the Kremlin targeted anti-Trump GOP think tanks.

Sharifulin Valery/ZUMA

Let our journalists help you make sense of the noise: Subscribe to the Mother Jones Daily newsletter and get a recap of news that matters.

In a startling announcement Tuesday, Microsoft revealed that the same Kremlin-backed military intelligence unit believed to have carried out the 2016 hacking of the Democratic National Committee attempted last week to target the US Senate and conservative think tanks that have broken with President Donald Trump.

While the company said those efforts by Russia’s “Fancy Bear” hackers were ultimately thwarted through a court order that provided it control of six suspicious domains that were created to steal personal information and passwords, Tuesday’s alarming disclosure comes as only the most recent example in recent weeks of detected attempts that appear intended to influence the fast-approaching November elections. These known efforts have largely targeted vulnerable Democrats, contradicting Trump’s staggering insistence last month that Russia is fighting “very hard” against Republicans this year.

July 26, Sen. Claire McCaskill 

Already facing an uphill battle for reelection in a state that overwhelmingly voted for Trump, Claire McCaskill (D-Mo.) confirmed a Daily Beast report that “Fancy Bear” had attempted to hack into her office’s computer network. “While this attack was not successful, it is outrageous that they think they can get away with this,” McCaskill said in a statement. “I will not be intimidated. I’ve said it before and I will say it again, Putin is a thug and a bully.” 

The attack on the Missouri senator, which was first detected and brought to the attention of McCaskill’s office by Microsoft, marked the first known target of the midterm elections.

July 29, Sen. Jeanne Shaheen

When asked about the unsuccessful hacking attempt into McCaskill’s computer network during an appearance on CBS’s Face the Nation, Sen. Jeanne Shaheen (D-N.H.) revealed that her office had also detected suspicious phishing scams. She said the situation was eventually turned over to authorities. “We’re hearing that this is widespread with political parties across the country, as well as with members of the Senate,” Shaheen said. “So this is a very big issue and it’s something that we need to address in a bipartisan way.

August 8, Florida Election Systems

Sen. Bill Nelson (D-Fla.), who is similarly facing a tough reelection bid against Republican Gov. Rick Scott in the swing state of Florida, revealed to the Tampa Bay Times that Russian hackers had gained access to the state’s election systems. “They have already penetrated certain counties in the state and they now have free rein to move about,” Nelson told the paper. 

In turn, Scott accused Nelson of either leaking classified information or “simply making things up.” He demanded that Nelson provide further information to back the hacking claims. On Friday, Nelson tweeted an NBC report with the headline “Bill Nelson wasn’t making things up when he said Russians hacked Florida election systems” that appeared to do just that:

August 15, Hans Keirstead

Documents obtained by Rolling Stone revealed that for the past year the FBI had investigated numerous cyberattacks—some successful—that targeted Hans Keirstead, a Democratic challenger of Rep. Dana Rohrabacher (R-Calif.), widely referred to as “Putin’s favorite congressman.”

After coming in third in the state’s June 5 primary, Keirstead went on to endorse fellow Democratic candidate Harley Rouda to face Rohrabacher. But Keirstead’s campaign said it was now publicizing the hacking efforts in order to sound the alarm and warn voters. “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,” campaign manager Kyle Quinn-Quesada told Rolling Stone.

August 18, David Min

In a situation similar to that of Keirstead, sources told Reuters that the FBI was investigating a successful cyberattack against David Min, a Democratic congressional candidate in California’s 45th congressional district who was ultimately defeated in the state’s June primary. A source later told CNN that the DNC had described the attack as one of the most “sophisticated” it had witnessed this election cycle.

SIX TRUTHS

Reclaiming power from those who abuse it often starts with telling the truth. And in "This Is How Authoritarians Get Defeated," MoJo's Monika Bauerlein unpacks six truths to remember during the homestretch of an election where democracy, truth, and decency are on the line.

Truth #1: The chaos is the point.

Truth #2: Team Reality is bigger than it seems.

Truth #3: Facebook owns this.

Truth #4: When we go to work, we're in the fight.

Truth #5: It's about minority rule.

Truth #6: The only thing that can save us is…us.

Please take a moment to see how all these truths add up, because what happens in the weeks and months ahead will reverberate for at least a generation and we better be prepared.

And if you think journalism like Mother Jones'—that calls it like it is, that will never acquiesce to power, that looks where others don't—can help guide us through this historic, high-stakes moment, and you're able to right now, please help us reach our $350,000 goal by October 31 with a donation today. It's all hands on deck for democracy.

payment methods

SIX TRUTHS

Reclaiming power from those who abuse it often starts with telling the truth. And in "This Is How Authoritarians Get Defeated," MoJo's Monika Bauerlein unpacks six truths to remember during the homestretch of an election where democracy, truth, and decency are on the line.

Truth #1: The chaos is the point.

Truth #2: Team Reality is bigger than it seems.

Truth #3: Facebook owns this.

Truth #4: When we go to work, we're in the fight.

Truth #5: It's about minority rule.

Truth #6: The only thing that can save us is…us.

Please take a moment to see how all these truths add up, because what happens in the weeks and months ahead will reverberate for at least a generation and we better be prepared.

And if you think journalism like Mother Jones'—that calls it like it is, that will never acquiesce to power, that looks where others don't—can help guide us through this historic, high-stakes moment, and you're able to right now, please help us reach our $350,000 goal by October 31 with a donation today. It's all hands on deck for democracy.

payment methods

We Recommend

Latest

Sign up for our free newsletter

Subscribe to the Mother Jones Daily to have our top stories delivered directly to your inbox.

Get our award-winning magazine

Save big on a full year of investigations, ideas, and insights.

Subscribe

Support our journalism

Help Mother Jones' reporters dig deep with a tax-deductible donation.

Donate