U.S. Republican group hit by Russian-linked virus: researcher

October 6, 2016 2:14 PM EDT

A magnifying glass is held in front of a computer screen in this picture illustration taken in Berlin May 21, 2013. REUTERS/Pawel Kopczynski/File Photo


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WASHINGTON (Reuters) - A U.S. Republican Party website selling campaign stickers and other political gear is among thousands of websites infected with a credit-card stealing virus that sent data to a server in Russia, according to a Dutch security researcher.

A page on the National Republican Senatorial Committee's website selling stickers, T-shirts and baseball caps was infected with a hard-to-detect virus that collected all information entered on orders, including buyers' names and addresses, credit card numbers and merchandise ordered, according to the researcher, Willem de Groot.

De Groot, co-founder of Dutch e-commerce company Byte, said that he learned of the infection after conducting a web scan to find sites infected with the virus. "I don’t think it was a targeted attack," de Groot told Reuters.

Other victims include clothing retailers, car manufacturers and local shops. He declined to identify them, saying he had not had time to notify them of the infection.

The NRSC took down the website on Thursday and acknowledged that it had been targeted by a "skimming operation".

NRSC spokeswoman Andrea Bozek said a vendor discovered "an issue yesterday that affected an extremely small number of supporters."

"The problem was fixed immediately and we are contacting those who were affected," she said in a statement. She provided no further details.

The NRSC, a party operation dedicated to getting Republicans elected to the Senate, said it found no evidence that its primary donation system was hacked. The numbers affected account for less than 0.0018 percent of online donations to the NRSC, a committee aide said.

The committee had received more than $65 million in political contributions for the 2016 campaign, as of Aug. 31, according to Federal Election Commission records.

Researcher De Groot documented the attack in a video on his blog, in which he demonstrates that entering an order on the NRSC site causes the malware to send its details to a server in Russia. http://bit.ly/2dxNS6z

The malware was embedded into the site's code, which can be viewed using a common web browser, according to de Groot.

A search of archived versions of the set led him to determine that it had been infected since at least March of this year, he said.

The infection was earlier reported by the Dutch website Follow the Money, www.ftm.nl.

(Reporting by Jim Finkle in Boston and Toby Sterling in Amsterdam. Additional reporting by David Morgan in Washington; Editing by Alistair Bell)



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