U.S. officials say hackers attempted to break into the massive voter database of the Democratic National Committee (DNC), but were stopped, two years after Russian operatives allegedly hacked and leaked the committee's e-mails during the presidential election.
Democratic party officials said on August 22 that a web security firm using artificial intelligence uncovered the attempt and the committee was notified on August 21.
The hackers created a fake login page to gather user names and passwords in an effort to gain access to the Democratic Party's voter file, which contains information on tens of millions of voters, the officials said.
The attempt was quickly thwarted by suspending the attacker's account, and no information was compromised, they said, adding that the FBI was immediately notified.
Government and technology officials say it's too early to know who was behind the attempt. The FBI declined to comment.
Ross Rustici, senior director for intelligence services at Cybereason in Boston, told AP that a voter database is a good target for anyone trying to exacerbate political divisions in the United States or gain insight on political opponents.
"The data housed in these types of databases would be incredibly useful both for domestic opposition research as well as for foreign intelligence and counterintelligence purposes," he said.
In the months before the 2016 election, U.S. intelligence agencies say Russian hackers compromised the Democratic committee's servers and publicly revealed internal communications that exploited divisions between Democratic presidential candidates Bernie Sanders and Hillary Clinton as they vied for the Democratic presidential nomination.
Russian hackers that year also allegedly accessed the e-mail accounts of Clinton's campaign chairman, John Podesta, and leaked the contents to Wikileaks in the weeks leading up to the election -- a development that Clinton blamed in part for her defeat. Russia has denied involvement in the hackings.
The latest attack comes two days after Microsoft said it uncovered fraudulent websites created by Kremlin agents that spoofed two Washington-based institutes that are foes of Russian President Vladimir Putin with the goal of tricking unwitting employees into divulging their credentials.
Homeland Security Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen said the quick response to the attempted DNC hack this time showed that system reforms instituted since 2016 to guard against such attacks are working.
"Any attack on a political party or a campaign is important for us all to take seriously," she said, emphasizing that the government is doing all it can to help protect election systems ahead of the November congressional elections.
At stake in those elections is control of Congress, which could potentially switch from Republican to Democrat.