Opinion

Americans across party lines are being victimized by PAC related online scams

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Op-ed views and opinions expressed are solely those of the author.

Years ago, so-called “Election Rigging” took on a completely different look from what we associate it with today, as we seemingly hear the phase with increasing regularity every 2 years. Believe it or not, before 1880, just 140 years ago, individual ballots were not kept secret in America. This led to some chaotic scenarios and often disputed elections where political operatives were often accused of coercion.

In the digital age, where the internet has seemingly created a virtual “world without borders” and has allowed for unfettered contact between people and entities, the potential for new incarnations of election interference is only limited by the imaginations of would-be perpetrators.

But since 2016, where the illusion of Russian or overall foreign meddling was a narrative portrayed by the tone-deaf Democratic Party, who couldn’t understand how former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, the American embodiment of a political profiteer, didn’t win the presidential election, the issue of election meddling/and or hacking has remained in the headlines.

Despite the arguments, both supporting and opposing the idea that nation-states or individual cybercriminal groups can actually affect election outcomes, hackers, who usually have a strictly financial agenda, have instituted new tactics based around domain spoofing of political action committee (PAC) websites in order to steal banking data from victims.

According to reports, a phishing campaign that featured emails purported to come from a PAC that was said to support Joe Biden asked recipients to click on a tab in the email to verify their voting eligibility.

One of the recipients of the email, Harvard University graduate student Maya James, conducting a Google search on the organization only to learn that they didn’t really exist.

“There was not a trace of them,” James told the AP. “It was a very inconspicuous email, but I noticed it used very emotional language, and that set off alarm bells.” After deleting the message, James posted social media warnings of the scheme.

Another new hacking program discovered several weeks ago has targeted supporters of President Donald Trump with a banking Trojan. The messages refer to campaign issues, and innocent individuals opened the communications were infected with Emotet malware. The email looked like a legitimate PAC email with election-centric content throughout the message. It also included links that opened web pages on the impersonated PAC’s website.

Another email that was sent had “Fwd: Breaking: President Trump suspends funding to WHO (World Health Organization)” in the subject line and asked victims that agreed with the suspension of WHO funding to click a button reading “Stand with Trump.” The scheme also utilized Display Name Spoofing In an effort to hide the sender’s real email address.

Although the sender email addresses used to spread the fake messages varied, all came legit email accounts that had been compromised by cybercriminals. This allowed hackers to pass email authentication protocols.

Hackers are also posing as pollsters and fundraisers and launching phony voter registration drives with the intention of obtaining financial and other personal information on victims.

Despite a plethora of warnings from the FBI, CISA, and most of the leading cybersecurity experts for most of the year, a growing number of Americans have already been victimized by these election-themed criminal antics.

These kinds of schemes are all about profitability to hackers, as evidenced by the fact that the attacks are not singling out members of any particular political party. Despite repeated attempts by Democrats, who have long portrayed themselves as the only victims of election-related cybercrime, every American needs to be aware of online threats as the days dwindle down to the election.

Julio Rivera

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