Campaigns on their own as cyber threats roil midterms

Kamala Harris has been the target of social media misinformation campaigns since she became a U.S. senator.

Every month for the last 18 months, her office has discovered on average between three and five fake Facebook profiles pretending to be hers, according to a Harris aide. It’s unclear who creates the pages, which are often designed to mislead American voters about the ambitious Democratic senator’s policies and positions.

The aide spoke on the condition of anonymity, like more than a half dozen campaign officials contacted for this story, for fear of attracting unwanted attention from adversaries or scrutiny on the Senate office’s evolving cybersecurity protocols.

Such internet mischief has become commonplace in U.S. politics. Facebook announced earlier this week that it uncovered “sophisticated” efforts, possibly linked to Russia, to influence U.S. politics on its platforms. Senior intelligence officials declared Thursday that foreign adversaries continue waging a quiet war against U.S. campaigns and election systems.

Still, one thing has become clear: With the midterm elections just three months away, campaigns are largely on their own in the increasingly challenging task of protecting sensitive information and countering false or misleading content on social media.

The Democratic National Committee has worked to strengthen its own internal security protocols and encouraged state parties to do the same, according to Raffi Krikorian, who previously worked for Uber and Twitter and now serves as the DNC’s chief technology officer.

But in an interview, he acknowledged there are limits to how much the national party can protect the thousands of Democratic campaigns across the country.

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