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Hackers stole $2.3M from account for Trump reelection, Wisconsin Republican Party chairman says

"They came into one of the most vital battleground states at the perfect time"

Updated: October 31, 2020 - 4:26pm

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Hackers broke into the Wisconsin Republican Party’s account being used to help reelect President Trump and stole $2.3 million, the party’s chairman told The Associated Press on Thursday.

The party noticed some unauthorized activity on Oct. 22 and contacted the FBI the next day, Chairman Andrew Hitt said, adding that the bureau is investigating. 

The cyber attack came as Trump and Democrat Joe Biden are battling to win the key state. Trump topped Democrat Hillary Clinton in 2016 by fewer than 23,000 votes, which along with Pennsylvania and Michigan put him in the White House. Trump has made repeated trips to the state and plans his third visit in a week on Friday. Biden, meanwhile, will campaign in Wisconsin on the same day.

"Hitt said he was not aware of any other state GOP being targeted for a similar hack, but state parties were warned at the Republican National Convention this summer to be on the lookout for cyber attacks," the AP wrote. "Hitt said the hackers manipulated invoices from four vendors who were being paid for direct mail for Trump’s reelection efforts as well as for pro-Trump material such as hats to be handed out to supporters. Invoices and other documents were altered so when the party paid them for the services rendered, the money went to the hackers instead of the vendors."

"The sophisticated criminal began with a phishing attack," Hitt told The Milwaukee Journal Sentinel. "Once in the system, they were able to manipulate information in our emails and on invoices and documents that then resulted in them obtaining $2.3 million."

Hitt added: "Obviously, the hackers were extremely skilled and knowledgeable. They came into one of the most vital battleground states at the perfect time when resources are being spent."

“We have been in contact with the state party and are assisting them through this process,” Republican National Committee spokesman Michael Ahrens told the wire service . “The RNC never left Wisconsin after 2016, and we are confident that our ground game and the millions we are spending on TV and digital will deliver us another win there in 2020.”

Campaign officials in Wisconsin learned about the hack from media reports and were furious that state officials had not briefed them on how it might impact operations, according to a Trump campaign official who requested anonymity because the person was not authorized to discuss internal conversations.

There have been more than 800 attempted phishing attacks for financial gain targeting the Wisconsin Democratic Party this campaign cycle, but none has been successful, said party spokeswoman Courtney Beyer.

Democrats enjoy a financial edge in the state. "Campaign finance reports filed this week in Wisconsin show Democrats have raised far more money than Republicans. The state Democratic Party raised nearly $59 million over the past two years compared with just $23.7 million for Republicans," the AP wrote.

Earlier this week, the website for the the national Trump reelection campaign was "defaced" by hackers but no information was taken, the campaign said. 

 

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