This cycle has seen cyber security come to the forefront as a major challenge facing the industry. Hacking victims range from the DNC and DSCC to the Clinton campaign and, possibly, individual GOP operatives.
But do campaigns and consultants have as much to fear from one another as they do from state-sponsored hackers? According to a lawsuit filed by California Democratic Rep. Mike Honda’s campaign, its donor files were breached by a former intern with legacy access to his fundraising consultant’s Dropbox folder.
The lawsuit, filed by Honda’s campaign against Democratic challenger Ro Khanna, alleges that Brian Parvizshahi, Khanna’s manager, repeatedly accessed the Arum Group’s Dropbox-stored files between February 2013 and June 2015. The files contained donor lists and other sensitive data.
Arum Group informed Honda’s campaign in May that Parvizshahi, a former intern for the firm, had been left on the company’s Dropbox access list despite ending his internship in 2012, according to the Los Angeles Times. It’s unclear why it took Honda’s campaign until September to bring the allegations to light. Madalene Xuan-Trang Mielke, founder of Arum Group, declined to comment.
According to the lawsuit that was filed Thursday, Parvizshahi used his access to steal data on Honda’s donors who had contributed more than $1,000, dubbed “Cranes,” and leak it to San Jose Inside, a political news site. The Khanna campaign was also accused of soliciting some of Honda’s donors.
Parvizshahi, who joined the Khanna campaign in January 2014, resigned Thursday after the news broke. The campaign hasn't directly addressed the allegations. In a statement to the Times after Parvizshahi quit the campaign, a Khanna spokesman said: "By filing this lawsuit with six weeks to go and down in the polls, [Parvizshahi] believes Mike Honda is trying to distract voters from the ongoing ethics investigation into how he sold special governmental access to his VIP donors after accepting $3 million in PAC contributions. And Brian will not let Mike Honda use him to distract voters from the need for real change."
Meanwhile, digital consultants have been warning against the exact problem that Honda and his fundraising consultant experienced.
“As digital has progressively taken over, that basic password security has fallen by the wayside,” Beth Becker, a Democratic digital strategist, told C&E in August. “It’s time to fix that.”
Josh Koster, a managing partner at digital ad agency Chong and Koster, said that the DNC and DCCC hacks should serve as a wake-up call – albeit one that wasn’t heard.
“If they aren't upping their security game now that they know they are a target, they are running a real risk,” Koster said.