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Congress lacks power to stop foreign states hacking personal emails

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Donald Trump
The
US government apparently doesn’t have the power to protect the
personal email accounts of senators and their
aides.

Brian
Snyder/Reuters


  • Foreign governments are hacking into the personal email
    accounts of US senators and their aides, a senator
    warned.
  • But the office in charge of overseeing the Senate’s
    security has no mandate to protect personal accounts and
    devices, only official ones.
  • “At least one major technology company” recently
    informed senators and their staffers that their accounts are
    under fire, Ron Wyden (D-OR) wrote.
  • He is pushing legislation to allow the US Senate
    Sergeant at Arms to protect private accounts and
    devices.

Congress has no power to stop foreign powers from hacking into
the personal emails of senators and their staff, a senator has
warned.

The US Senate Sergeant at Arms (SAA), which oversees all of the
Senate’s security, lacks the authority to shield politicians and
their aides from the growing number of cyberattacks from foreign
governments, Sen. Ron Wyden
wrote in a Wednesday letter
.

Wyden, a Democratic senator for Oregon, said in his letter that
“at least one major technology company” had recently
“informed a number of Senators and Senate staff members”
that their personal email accounts were under fire from hackers
backed by foreign governments.


ron wyden
Sen.
Ron Wyden wrote a letter warning of the foreign hacking
attempts.

Aaron P.
Bernstein/Reuters


The SAA’s cybersecurity personnel, however, has not been able to
shield senators and staffers from those attempts, Wyden said.

He wrote:

“Given the significance of this threat, I was alarmed to learn
that SAA cybersecurity personnel apparently refused to help
Senators and Senate staff after these attacks.

“The SAA informed each Senator and staff member who asked for
help that it may not offer cybersecurity assistance for personal
accounts.

“The SAA confirmed to my office that it believes it may only use
appropriated funds to protect official government devices and
accounts.”


washington dc capitol building
The US Capitol in Washington, DC.
REUTERS/Jason Reed

Wyden did not specify in his letter who those targets were, or
which foreign governments were supposedly behind the attacks.

He also did not say when those members were notified of the
hacking attempts, though the Associated Press cited
an unnamed Senate staffer as saying they took place “in the last
few weeks or months.”

Fancy Bear, a hacking collective closely aligned to the Russian
government, are among the groups trying to hack personal email
accounts, Wyden said.

He now plans to introduce legislation to allow the SAA to provide
help to senators and their staff for their personal accounts and
devices.


Hillary Clinton emails 2016 election
A
group dressed as “Hillary Clinton’s emails” at a Halloween parade
in New York City in October 2016.

Drew
Angerer/Getty Images


Email hacking attempts in politics are nothing new.

In early 2016, John Podesta, the campaign chairman of
then-Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton, had his personal account
hacked after
clicking on a fake link that asked him to change his email
password
.

That resulted in hackers obtaining 500,000 emails from his
account, which WikiLeaks published shortly before the November
presidential election.

Last month
Microsoft said it had uncovered new attempts
 from a
hacking group tied to the Russian government to target US
political groups ahead of the November midterm elections.

The attempts mirrored similar Russian attacks before the 2016
election, which US intelligence officials said to help Donald
Trump by hurting his opponent, Hillary Clinton.

The FBI and CIA
agreed in December 2016
, one month after the election, that
Russia intervened in the presidential election to help Trump win.

Clinton also said she believed Russia-backed hackers targeted her
campaign because of Putin’s personal grudge against her
.

In July,
Facebook refused to say
whether they had seen evidence of
organized information campaigns like those in 2016.

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