The leaking of DNC emails helped to shape the 2016 presidential election, exposing fraudulent behavior as well as other embarrassing information about the Democratic Party.
This time, it appears that the Republican National Committee has fallen victim to the leaking of sensitive details, but this time it is the information of registered voters, not party insiders, that was exposed.
The Republican National Committee hired a data analytics firm last year to collect information on US citizens’ voting patterns and other political records. Following Mitt Romney’s unsuccessful presidential run in 2012, the firm’s primary aim was to determine which viewers and demographics to target with political advertisements. As part of their research, the analytics firm Deep Roots Analytics, employed predictive modeling tools that combined one’s personal information with their voting inclinations, giving a very clear picture as to how a person should be target via political advertisements.
Deep Roots used an Amazon cloud server to store the information, yet they did not go through the necessary steps to secure said server. The server did not have password protection; the primary reason attaining the information was likely an easy feat for those that leaked it.
One cyber risk analyst said that not properly securing such information is common, often the result of employees cutting corners or making mistakes.
For the most part, it appears that these leaks do not pose any danger to the personal security of the approximate 198 citizens whose information was attained, accounting for 61% of the U.S. population.
Cyber security firm UpGuard explained the forms of information that was leaked, and to what extent:
“(Information linked) included 1.1 terabytes of entirely unsecured personal information compiled by Deep Root Analytics and at least two other Republican contractors, TargetPoint Consulting, Inc. and Data Trust . In total, the personal information of potentially near all of America's 200 million registered voters was exposed, including names, dates of birth, home addresses, phone numbers, and voter registration details, as well as data described as 'modeled' voter ethnicities and religions."
While the leak is massive in scale, almost all this information can be found online with a Google or Spokeo search, yet the compilation of names affiliated with the Republican party, as well as the analytics tools employed by Deep Roots in the spreadsheet, make the information more valuable than it may initially appear. Some claim that the level of detail on each voter listed could be considered a gold mine for political insiders whose job it is to persuade or dissuade voters.
Specifically, Archie Argwal, who founded a cybersecurity firm called ThreatModeler, posited that the acquisition of such information by certain people could have a critical impact on the next election, if not many elections.
"This is the mother lode of all leaks," Agarwal said. "Governments are made or broken on this. I don't even have the words to describe it."
While Argwal remains vague on what exactly Deep Roots’ findings provide that could be so influential, he maintains that should the information fall into the wrong hands, they would understand what makes “voters tick”, and therefore have the ability to sway an election, though this is mere speculation at this point.
This is how UpGuard’s Chris Vickery, cyber risk analyst, explain the potential threat that this information could pose:
"There is nothing more valuable to some people out there than this kind of information," Upguard's Vickery added. "This is what you can use to steal an election at the state and local level. It tells you who you need to advertise to to swing votes."
However, obviously the Republican National Committee had this information during the 2016 election, and perhaps it allowed for targeted advertising that contributed to Donald Trump’s victory.
Some publications speculate that should the information fall into the hands of, say, Russia, that they could somehow sway the election. However, it is unclear how Russia would be able to run advertisements of any real scale or impact on American television to do so. But, as is the case in 2017, Russia must be involved, somehow, even when it makes little to no sense for them to be.
For example, Vickery also said this:
"There is nothing more valuable to some people out there than this kind of information. This is what you can use to steal an election at the state and local level. It tells you who you need to advertise to swing votes."
If this is the case, why didn’t the Democrats employ such analytic measures via a firm similar to Deep Roots? Nobody has asserted it is illegal, so how would a party as seemingly savvy as the Democrats not have discovered such a tactic by now?
Perhaps, Democrats have not.
One Republican strategist said this:
"It's silly of Deep Root to have let that happen," the strategist said. "But I think that, overall, this story is a positive and shows that Republicans are ahead of democrats."
They certainly are in the polls, and if in fact the Democrats did not employ polling analytics as Deep Roots did, then it would appear Republicans are ahead in that respect as well.
However, as to the damage of these particular leaks, it seems that paranoia about foreign intervention-the narrative of the day- is the only significant cause for concern.