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'Foreign entity' said to have hacked GOP officials' e-mails

Washington

THE campaign committee for House Republicans discovered in April that the e-mail accounts of some of its senior officials had been hacked by what analysts later concluded was a "foreign entity", people who have been briefed on the case said on Tuesday, highlighting the continued vulnerability of the United States to interference in its elections.

The hack of the organisation, the National Republican Congressional Committee (NRCC), exposed thousands of e-mails from four senior aides for months, perhaps longer.

The hack was terminated when the staff members, alerted to the intrusion, changed their passwords.

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But the committee, which called in the FBI to investigate, waited eight months - until after Republicans lost 40 seats and control of the House of Representatives in the mid-term elections - to disclose publicly what had happened. It remains unclear who was behind the hack.

By all accounts, the hack was not as widespread or sophisticated as the Russian effort to take over the computer systems of the Democratic National Committee in 2016. In that instance, the Russians implanted malware into the computer server that ran many of the Democratic committee's operations and had free run of its communications networks.

The breach of the Republican campaign committee, first reported by Politico, appears to have been more limited. The intrusion into the four email accounts was detected by a vendor for the committee.

"The NRCC can confirm that it was the victim of a cyber intrusion by an unknown entity," Ian Prior, a spokesman for the organisation, said in a statement.

"The cybersecurity of the committee's data is paramount, and upon learning of the intrusion, the NRCC immediately launched an internal investigation and notified the FBI, which is now investigating the matter."

Mr Prior declined to comment further, citing the continuing investigation. None of the e-mails appear to have been published.

This was not the first time the Republicans were a target. In 2016, Russian hackers broke into an outside vendor who appeared to have outdated documents from past campaigns, James Comey, then-FBI director, told Congress in January 2017. NYTIMES