After announcing on Tuesday that it detected a ‘sophisticated’ hacking attempt on its servers, the Democratic National Committee (DNC) walked back the claim late Wednesday night once it became clear that the unauthorized activity was actually attributable to a subcontractor running a security test.
“We, along with the partners who reported the [fake] site, now believe it was built by a third party as part of a simulated phishing test on VoteBuilder,” said DNC chief security officer Bob Lord in a statement.
The reversal came less than two days after the DNC informed the FBI of a scheme designed to coerce DNC employees into entering their email credentials in a fraudulent online portal.
While the alarm led to speculation that Russian intelligence officers were once again targeting the DNC, the activity was actually the result of a security check performed by a subcontractor hired by the Michigan Democratic party, which failed to inform the national organization of the test.
Michigan officials were “a little embarrassed, but they did the right thing and told us right away,” an unnamed DNC official told the Washington Post on Thursday. “They didn’t let it linger.”
In an interview with the Post, Lord dismissed the idea of punishing the Michigan employees who approved the security check without first notifying the national organization.
“I’m not interested in slowing down people who want to do legitimate and appropriate testing,” he said in an interview. He added that the DNC will likely issue instructions for future security tests as a result of the admittedly embarrassing incident.
“If you’re building any sort of attack framework, white-hat testing, we need to be aware of that so we can factor that into our decision-making,” Lord said.