A major technology company has been telling senators and their staffers that their personal email accounts were targeted by foreign hackers, a senior Democrat on the Senate Intelligence Committee claimed in a letter to leaders Wednesday.
Sen. Ron Wyden (D-Ore.) used the letter, news of which was first reported by the Associated Press, to question why the Senate sergeant-at-arms did not have a clear mandate to help protect the personal accounts and devices of senators and their staffers as well as the official ones.
“This approach must change to keep up with changing world realities,” Wyden said in his letter, in which he pointed out that similar personal protections are provided to “high-value targets” at the Pentagon. He stressed that the stakes are particularly high in advance of the midterm elections, noting that “the Senate simply does not have the luxury of further delays.”
Wyden did not specify which company made the discoveries, nor did he give more details about what type of attempted hacking or other targeting had transpired. But the letter doubles as an appeal for support for legislation that Wyden is writing to expand the protection mandate of the Senate sergeant-at-arms to cover personal devices and accounts. Wyden’s letter says the office of the sergeant-at-arms believes it is authorized to use its appropriated funds only for official government equipment and accounts.
Various experts have warned that the politicians’ personal accounts and devices are just as much a target for foreign hackers as official ones. Wyden cited the example of the Russian hacking outfit Fancy Bear, which targeted congressional staffers in 2015 and 2016 — but went after those staffers’ personal email accounts, Wyden said, not their professional ones. The AP reported earlier this year that Robert Zarate, national security adviser to Sen. Marco Rubio (R-Fla.), was among those targeted.