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Russian hackers are going after U.S. elections again. Democratic Senator Claire McCaskill said this week her campaign was targeted by a phishing attack from Russia after that had been reported in The Daily Beast. The senator is up for re-election in November, in Missouri, a state that voted overwhelmingly for Donald Trump in 2016. And there's reason to believe other campaigns could be under attack as well. NPR's Miles Parks has more.
MILES PARKS, BYLINE: Matt Rhoades ran Mitt Romney's 2012 presidential campaign. He says, campaigns are an easy target for Russia because despite what popular culture may say, they often aren't that organized.
MATT RHOADES: The only thing that is actually consistent with the movies when it comes to campaigns is people eat a lot of pizza. And they're not that sophisticated. That's what makes our campaigns so thrilling and exciting, but it also makes them soft targets.
PARKS: Rhoades helps lead a project at Harvard University that aims to help election officials and campaigns grapple with the new reality - that they now have a target on their backs. I sat down with him and Robby Mook, Hillary Clinton's 2016 campaign manager, at a conference Harvard hosted in the spring. Clinton was the target of a successful attack similar to the one McCaskill faced. Her campaign chairman, John Podesta, had his email account accessed by Russian operatives, who proceeded to publish reams of emails. Here's Mook.
ROBBY MOOK: The irony of campaigns is they are the grittiest and least resourced startups that are out there, but they're incredibly valuable targets.
PARKS: Campaigns often don't have the time or money to develop long-term security plans. And they're bringing in new staff all the time without training. Those staffers and sometimes volunteers may also be using their own equipment.
In the case of the McCaskill attack, Russian operatives sent fake emails that were made to look like official notices to change a password. There's no indication the attack was successful.
Eric Rosenbach leads the project at Harvard. He serves as the chief of staff for the Department of Defense and used to lead all aspects of the department's cyber activity. He says there's also no reason to believe McCaskill staff is alone, even if they're the first this election cycle to publicly state they've been targeted.
ERIC ROSENBACH: The fact that you find one part of a Russian cyber intrusion or attack usually means that you've only found a very small part of it. They're just very sophisticated. So you always have to operate as if you've only found the beginning of what is probably a much more complex problem and situation.
PARKS: Until the U.S. institutes an effective foreign policy to deter these sorts of attacks, Rosenbach says they'll continue. Miles Parks, NPR News, Washington.
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