A Democratic opponent to GOP Rep. Dana Rohrabacher of California has been the target of multiple cyber attacks over the past year.
Dr. Hans Keirstead, a stem-cell scientist and CEO of Aivita biomedical, a research company, was the victim of the series of cyber attacks starting with a spear-phishing email attack in August 2017 in which a fake email disguised as a legitimate Microsoft Office email duped Keirstead into entering his password, according to Rolling Stone.
In December of 2017, campaign officials detected multiple attempts to access the campaign’s website and hosting service, in which “hackers or bots tried different username-password combinations in a rapid-fire sequence over a two-and-a-half-month period to get inside the campaign’s WordPress-hosted website,” according to Rolling Stone.
There were over 130,000 brute-force attempts to gain administrator access to the campaign’s server over a month-long period and multiple attempts by unknown users to access the campaign’s Twitter account in January.
“While the spear-phishing attack targeting Keirstead’s work account was successful, none of the attempts to gain unauthorized access to the campaign’s website, hosting company or Twitter account were effective, according to the campaign emails,” reports Rolling Stone.
Keirstead came 3rd to Harley Rouda in the June 5th primary in California’s 48th Congressional district, losing to Rouda by just 125 votes and costing him the Democratic nomination for November’s general election against 15-year incumbent Dana Rohrabacher.
Rohrabacher is one of the most pro-Russia members of Congress and has been coined “Putin’s favorite congressman.”
Keirstead’s campaign manager Kyle Quinn-Quesada said the campaign is going public about the cyber attacks for the sake of voter awareness, according to Rolling Stone.
“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. Individual congressional campaigns are being targeted on a regular basis.”
Quinn-Quesada added that he doesn’t believe the cyberattacks had an impact on the results of the primary election.
The source of the cyberattacks remains unclear.
“The hackers could have been one of many actors: a nation-state (such as Russia), organized crime, so-called e-crime or a hacktivist with a specific agenda,” cybersecurity experts told Rolling Stone.
“It’s nearly impossible to identify who was behind the hacks without the help of law enforcement or high-priced private cybersecurity firms that collect their own threat data.”