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That’s one reason cybersecurity is a top priority of the GOP team that’s been organizing the convention for more than a year. Max Everett, chief information officer for the convention, says there have already been a number of online “phishing” expeditions that could be hackers conducting reconnaissance on the convention’s network, and looking for weak spots. “We haven’t seen a lot of particular threats or attacks from them yet,” he tells Yahoo Finance in the video above. “But we fully anticipate that.”
Hackers linked with the Russian government have already conducted a massive attack against the Democratic National Committee, reportedly obtaining reams of data related to dirt-digging efforts against Trump. The Trump campaign has been directly targeted as well, as has the campaign of his Democratic rival, Hillary Clinton. It’s not clear what damage occurred in those attacks against the campaign.
The national political conventions may not be such juicy targets, since they’re not officially linked with the nominees’ campaigns and shouldn’t have sensitive data on the candidates or their field operations. But it would still be a coup for hackers able to cause trouble when Trump and his fellow Republicans dominate prime time July 18 – 21.
Hackers linked with the Russian and Chinese governments are some of the most capable, but the convention might also draw fire from amateurs simply hoping to cause trouble at “the Q” in Cleveland, the Quicken Loans Arena. “What we’re really worried about is somebody coming to try to disrupt the show,” says Everett. “The equivalent of a guy trying to shout during a rally.”
Every business needs to worry about cyberthreats these days, but the political conventions are unusual. Each is a pop-up business that swells rapidly, with new employees and consultants coming on board every day. Managers constantly remind newcomers and veterans alike to quarantine suspicious attachments and follow all the other practices of good online hygiene. Every staffer has at least one personal mobile device connected to the network, which the conventional can’t control, another possible entry point for invaders.
Everett advises every organization working at the convention to “get a wire,” so they have a hard connection to the network and aren’t dependent on wireless access, to improve both security and capacity. He’s also testing a new tool called “dark cube” that analyzes where Internet traffic pinging the convention’s network is coming from, and assesses whether those computer addresses seem to warn of a hack attempt. And top tech firms such as Microsoft (MSFT), Cisco (CSCO) and AT&T (T) are helping out by offering their own cybersecurity expertise. If you watch the convention and notice nothing unusual, that probably means it all worked.