‘Political Cybertheft’ Attack on GOP Congresswoman

(DCWatchdog.com) – Hundreds of thousands of dollars have been stolen from Republican US Congresswoman Diana Harshbarger’s campaign account, making her the last victim of high-profile political cyber thefts.

Harshbarger, who represents Tennessee’s first congressional district in the US House of Representatives, was robbed of $186,000 through an unauthorized wire transfer, Newsmax reported.

Documents submitted to the Federal Election Commission show that on July 8 of this year, a cyber thief nicknamed “Vix” sent the “unauthorized fraudulent wire transfer” out of Harshbarger’s account.

Yet, in its July filing with the FEC, the Tennessee congresswoman’s campaign also made it clear that the bank that received the funds “froze the funds and returned all the money in question” to Harshbarger months before the 2022 midterm election.

“Our internal controls caught a fraudulent invoice, and steps were taken immediately to rectify the situation, and we recovered the full amount,” revealed Harshbarger’s congressional chief of staff and senior campaign advisor, Zac Rutherford.

“We reported the crime to the FBI and consulted the FEC on how to report this unauthorized expenditure,” he said in a statement to the Insider.

The Harshbarger campaign didn’t offer details on the heist, but a source familiar with the matter said the cybercrime in question was quite “sophisticated.” The cyber thief wired the funds to an account at Wells Fargo.

FEC spokesperson Judith Ingram refused further to give information on the case, saying the commission “cannot comment on individual candidates or committees.”

The report points out cyber thieves have “political committees of all types and sizes.”

Their victims include President Joe Biden’s presidential campaign in 2020, the Republican National Committee, the PAC of the American Hospital Association, and Kanye West’s 2020 presidential campaign,

While cyber thieves often use phishing, other standard methods are stealing or falsifying paper checks.

“[Political] campaigns often lack the training, awareness, and tools to fight against the well-organized, highly skilled, and relentless cybercrime groups that specialize in phishing attacks,” commented James E. Lee, chief operating officer of the Identity Theft Resource Center.

“Campaigns also have two things that financially motivated identity criminals want — cash and the personal information of donors. Nation/state threat actors may also be interested in the donor information, depending on the candidate and office the candidate is seeking,” he elaborated.

Lee recommended that political committees take several essential steps to boost the security of their operations.

These include staff training for spotting cyber theft attacks and implementing multifactor authentication within a larger cybersecurity strategy.