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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

Read: Former Vice President Walter Mondale's last message

Photo courtesy of Mondale.

Former Vice President Walter Mondale wrote a farewell letter to his staff, sent upon his death on Monday, thanking them for years working together.

Dear Team,

Well my time has come. I am eager to rejoin Joan and Eleanor. Before I Go I wanted to let you know how much you mean to me. Never has a public servant had a better group of people working at their side!

Together we have accomplished so much and I know you will keep up the good fight.

Joe in the White House certainly helps.

I always knew it would be okay if I arrived some place and was greeted by one of you!

My best to all of you!

Fritz

Former Vice President Walter Mondale dies at 93

Walter Mondale, left, with former President Jimmy Carter in Jan. 2018 at the McNamara Alumni Center on the University of Minnesota's campus in Minneapolis. Photo: Anthony Souffle/Star Tribune via Getty Images

Walter Mondale, who transformed the role of U.S. vice president while serving under Jimmy Carter and was the Democratic nominee for president in 1984, died Monday at 93, according to a family spokesperson.

The big picture: President Biden, who was mentored by Mondale through the years, said in 2015 that the former vice president gave him a "roadmap" to successfully take on the job.

Scoop: U.S. ambassador refuses Kremlin push to leave Russia

U.S. Ambassador to Russia John Sullivan. Photo: Anton Novoderezhkin/TASS via Getty Images

The United States ambassador to Russia is refusing to leave the country after the Kremlin "advised" him to return home following new Biden administration sanctions, two sources briefed on the situation tell Axios.

Why it matters: John Sullivan, a respected diplomat who President Biden has, so far, retained from the Trump era, is at the center of one of the most important early tests of Biden's resolve.