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Illustration: Rebecca Zisser/Axios 

In the 2016 presidential election, Russian agents created havoc by stealing and releasing emails. Campaigns have since improved their security with measures like two-factor authentication and encrypted and ephemeral messaging. But so-called doxxing attacks were last cycle’s problem.

What’s new: Although cyber crime was less of an issue in the 2018 midterm elections, lone wolf hackers and nation states are likely to take a bigger interest in the presidential race. Cyberattacks that compromise political campaign funding — whether by siphoning off money or cutting off donations — present a growing threat.

Russia, Iran and North Korea all have a history of disabling or destroying corporate websites and financial data archives — and in the case of North Korea, straight up stealing money. Any of them could reprise these attacks against campaigns and cut off the “mother's milk” of politics. Here are key threats to watch for:

Old fashioned trickery: In “social engineering” attacks, hackers manipulate people online to access passwords or cash.

  • In 2018, Phil Bredesen’s U.S. Senate campaign nearly lost hundreds of thousands of dollars when hackers breached a consultant’s email account. They used intelligence about an upcoming media buy to pose as a vendor and submit invoices.
  • A staffer contacted the FBI after noticing the wiring credentials were for a foreign account, but it’s an easy detail to miss.

Spoofing: Adversaries seek to suppress online giving by seeding doubt and confusion among donors with fake donation sites, often using deceptive domain names and “typo squatting.”

  • Domestic imposters have already created sites that look exactly like Donald Trump’s campaign site to solicit donations for bogus political action committees, effectively stealing money.
  • A North Carolina candidate reported this year that a Russian purchased the domain from a previous campaign of hers and attempted to mimic her newer site.

Dedicated denial of service (DDoS) attacks: A critical moment — the end of a fundraising quarter, day of a debate or night of a nominee’s convention speech — can yield presidential candidates millions. But not if their website is down.

What’s next: As with doxxing, a few simple changes can make a difference. Campaigns will need procedures to catch social engineering, stronger software to shield their sites from DDoS attacks, and services to detect imposter sites.

Robby Mook is a political strategist and senior fellow at the Harvard Kennedy School.

Go deeper: A handbook for campaigns from Harvard University Belfer Center’s Defending Digital Democracy project

Go deeper

Thanksgiving box office shows theaters have long road to recovery

Photo of Disney's "Encanto;" Credit: Disney

Box office ticket sales over the Thanksgiving holiday show that consumer confidence in moviegoing is slowly improving, but not enough to bring the struggling theater industry back to pre-pandemic levels anytime soon, if ever.

Why it matters: "We may have to temper expectations a bit" for next year, said Comscore senior media analyst Paul Dergarabedian.

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29 mins ago - Health

Omicron adds urgency to vaccinating world

Photo: Phill Magakoe/AFP via Getty Images

The emergence of the Omicron variant is bringing new urgency to global vaccination efforts.

Why it matters: New variants can emerge anywhere, and can spread everywhere. Getting doses to the developing world — and getting those doses into people's arms — is essential, and that effort has so far been lagging.

GOP courts anti-vaxxers with jobless aid

Illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios

Republican officials around the country are testing a creative mechanism to build loyalty with unvaccinated Americans while undermining Biden administration mandates: unemployment benefits.

Driving the news: Florida, Iowa, Kansas and Tennessee have changed their unemployment insurance rules to allow workers who are fired or quit over vaccine mandates to receive benefits.