- The Washington Times - Friday, October 2, 2020

Democratic National Committee messaging has been repurposed and weaponized as part of a hacking campaign spotted by cybersecurity researchers following this week’s first presidential debate.

Language taken directly from the official DNC website appeared in malicious emails recently sent to hundreds of organizations in the U.S., threat researchers at the cybersecurity firm Proofpoint reported Thursday.

The emails bore the subject line “Team Blue Take Action,” and their contents included text lifted from the DNC site about its volunteer recruitment program, according to Proofpoint’s report.

“This is the best place for volunteers to find different opportunities to get involved to help elect Democrats up and down the ticket this year and next,” reads part of the messages Proofpoint saw.

The body of the emails include several paragraphs taken from the DNC site followed by a sent, the Silicon Valley-based group reported.

Proofpoint warned recipients who open the Word file subsequently risk having their computer infected with Emotet, a specific type of malicious software known well among cybersecurity researchers.

Cybercriminals have used similar lures in the past to try to trick recipients into running malware including Emotet. Emails purportedly containing copies of intelligence leaker Edward J. Snowden’s memoir, “Permanent Record,” were loaded with Emotet as part of a hacking campaign mounted when the book was released last September, another cybersecurity firm, Malwarebytes, warned at the time.

“The debate received widespread media coverage, and as Election Day draws nearer, many voters are likely feeling compelled to volunteer for political causes or for the election in some way. However, it’s unlikely that this shift is driven by any specific political ideology,” Proofpoint reported. Instead the sender is trying to reach as many recipients as possible by “capitalizing on a popular topic,” the firm said.

Emotet has been in existence since at least 2014. It was notably responsible for a 2018 infection that shut down certain computers used by the city of Allentown, Pa., and resulted in the city incurring an estimated one million dollars in expenses related to recovering.

• Andrew Blake can be reached at ablake@washingtontimes.com.

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