A Republican contractor’s database of nearly every voter was left exposed on the Internet for 12 days, researcher says – Washington Post

A Republican analytics firm’s database of nearly every registered American voter was left vulnerable to theft on a public server for 12 days this month, according to a cybersecurity researcher who found and downloaded the trove of data. (Meg Kelly/The Washington Post)

Detailed information on nearly every U.S. voter — including in some cases their ethnicity, religion and views on political issues — was left exposed online for two weeks by a political consultancy which works for the Republican National Committee and other GOP clients.

The data offered a strikingly complete picture of the voting histories and political leanings of the American electorate laid out on an easily downloadable format, said cybersecurity researcher Chris Vickery. He discovered the unprotected files of 198 million voters in a routine scan of the Internet last week and alerted law enforcement officials.

The precision and volume of the information, including dozens of data points on individual Republicans, Democrats and independent voters, highlights the rising sophistication of the data-mining efforts that have become central to modern political campaigns.

In some cases, that included which voters are suspicious of Wall Street and pharmaceutical firms, or who reluctantly voted for Hillary Clinton or supports the Affordable Care Act, Vickery said.

“They’re using this information to create political dossiers on individuals that are now available for anyone,” said Jeffrey Chester, executive director of the Center for Digital Democracy. “These political data firms might as well be working for the Russians.”

The data found by Vickery, who studies cybersecurity risk for the Silicon Valley start-up UpGuard, was compiled by GOP political consultant Deep Root Analytics, based on voter lists maintained by the RNC and augmented by other sources.

Deep Root did not disclose those sources but political research firms for years have been collecting information on voters from data brokers, social media postings, polling and other contacts with voters.

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