- The Washington Times - Wednesday, January 11, 2017

The hacking campaign that penetrated the Democratic National Committee prior to last year’s presidential race has prompted a candidate vying for the role of DNC chair to call for the creation of an in-house cyber expert position amid renewed discussions involving the intrusion.

Tom Perez, outgoing labor secretary and potential DNC chairman, recommended establishing the position, Politico reported on Wednesday.

“I think this office should report directly to the chair and, among other responsibilities, have them proactively monitor the DNC for attacks and breaches,” Mr. Perez told Politico.

“I want to make sure this chief cybersecurity officer is working with all of our state partners, because I’m confident we can fortify the front door and prevent future breaches,” he said. “At the same time, it’s critically important all the windows are closed as well.”

While information concerning the DNC breach first emerged last summer, the incident gained traction in recent days after the U.S. Office of the Director of National Intelligence discussed the intrusion in a declassified report published Friday.

Russian intelligence infiltrated the DNC beginning in July 2015 and maintained access for nearly a year during the course of conducting a multi-pronged “influence campaign” aimed at interfering in last year’s election, the report said.

As a result of the intrusion, hackers obtained damaging internal emails subsequently given to WikiLeaks for publication prior to Election Day, including correspondence directly attributed with causing then-chair Debbie Wasserman Schultz to resign.

Recalling the breach Wednesday, the outgoing labor secretary warned Republicans to be wary of suffering a similar fate further on.

“This is a very, very serious breach, and it’s clear to me if the tables had been turned and Hillary Clinton had won with the assistance of Russian hackers, Democrats would be holding 15 different hearings right now,” Mr. Perez told Politico.

“This is a very, very serious threat to our Democratic process and that is why I want to make sure we do everything in our power to prevent future attacks, and I think the Republicans on Capitol Hill ought to be as concerned as anyone about protecting our democracy,” he said.

President-elect Donald Trump, meanwhile, publicly attributed the DNC breach to Kremlin-tied hackers for the first time Wednesday during a rare press conference, telling reporters: “I think it was Russia.”

Revisiting the topic minutes later, however, he cautioned that Moscow may not have acted alone, adding: “It could have been others, also.”

Attribution aside, Mr. Trump said the DNC was “totally open to be hacked” because “they did a very poor job” securing its system.

“They could have had hacking defense, which we had,” he said. “They tried to hack the Republican National Committee, and they were unable to break through.”

FBI Director James B. Comey said Tuesday that state-sponsored hackers did penetrate RNC servers, but they had only obtained out-of-date information in doing so.

Mr. Perez announced his candidacy for DNC chairman in December and faces competition in fellow hopefuls including Minnesota Rep. Keith Ellison and South Bend, Indiana, Mayor Pete Buttigieg.

Whoever lands the role will take over from Donna Brazile, the interim DNC chair since July 2016. Ms. Brazile inherited the job months prior to last year’s election after Ms. Schultz resigned in the wake of having her personal correspondence published online by WikiLeaks, exposing her preference for the party’s eventual nominee, Hillary Clinton.

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