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RNC Accidentally Leaks 1.1 TB of Personal Data

The Republican National Committee, or RNC, has been under intense scrutiny as of late. Not only has the legitimacy of their presidential nominee come into question time and time again, but now they face another problem: leaking the personal details of nearly 200 million U.S. citizens. Luckily the data was only available for a short time, and safeguards have been put in place to prevent this specific incident from occurring in the future. However, it does serve as another reminder of the importance of online data protection.

Some Very Personal Details

As unfortunate as it is, these types of data leaks occur all the time. This particular case stemmed from a massive cache of spreadsheets that were uploaded to Amazon’s cloud servers and left unsecured, but similar data leaks have involved many different companies and a myriad of sources. However, this leak included some very personal and intimate details of many U.S. citizens.

Per recent reports, the spreadsheets comprised 1.1 TB of data and contained data on over 60% of the entire U.S. population. These archives contained the usual data: full names, home addresses and telephone numbers. What makes this leak especially troubling is the fact that these records also contained information on religious and political affiliations.

Frederike Kaltheuner, policy officer with Privacy International, described the situation by saying: ''“This is deeply troubling. This is not just sensitive, it's intimate information, predictions about people's behavior, opinions and beliefs that people have never decided to disclose to anyone. It is a threat to the way democracy works. The GOP relied on publicly-collected, commercially-provided information. Nobody would have realized that the data they entrusted to one organization would end up in a database used to target them politically.”''

A leak of this size and scale is bad enough, but recent claims that Russian hackers interfered with the latest U.S. election has many questioning the IT infrastructure of the country’s governmental organizations.

The Good News

If you’re the optimistic type, you might take solace in the fact that there is no evidence that this information was ever accessed by hackers. The entire cache was initially discovered by Chris Vickery, a cyber risk analyst with {{|UpGuard}}.

The information was also accessed without using any sophisticated hacking tools. While this is an obvious sign of gross negligence on behalf of the firm that was contracted to compile and archive the data, it proves that there were no concentrated efforts being made to gain access to the data. All of the data was simply there for the taking.

Safeguarding Personal Data in the Future

As mentioned earlier, steps have already been taken to protect this data from future intrusions and leaks. System-specific access settings have been changed and additional security measures have been implemented by the firm responsible for maintaining the data on behalf of the RNC. Whether or not the added security will prove useful or even necessary is anybody’s guess, but it’s certainly a step in the right direction from an entity that is not always known for their fondness of next-gen technology.


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