Thursday, September 3, 2015

Stolen: Donor & Email Information From Heritage Foundation

It was the best of times and the worst of times.  The conservative think tank Heritage Foundation announced this week that it has received a $2.7 million gift.  Then, a day later, it announced that it had an unauthorized data breach in which donor information and emails were stolen.  Here is more from Politico:
The Heritage Foundation suffered a data breach this week in which intruders swiped sensitive emails and donor information, the right-wing think tank confirmed Wednesday.
The breach occurred at the same time that the foundation’s multimedia news organization, the Daily Signal, has criticized the Obama administration and federal agencies such as the Office of Personnel Management over lax cybersecurity. One article in July was headlined “How Obama’s Poor Judgment Led to the Chinese Hack of OPM.”
Any information dating back six years would preclude the arrival of former Sen. Jim DeMint as president of Heritage, and predate the existence of Heritage Action, the Foundation’s advocacy arm. Heritage’s review thus far has found no evidence of credit card or bank information being breached.

Politico notes that some of the stolen data may have recently been appearing on the Internet.  The article notes that in 2012, then-House Intelligence Chairman Mike Rogers (R-MI) said tanks were "juicy targets" for foreign intelligence services and were "under constant cyber espionage assault."  The article also notes that Heritage has been the target of cyberattacks before.

Politico also notess that earlier this year, the think tank Urban Institute disclosed to charitable organizations that its National Center for Charitable Statistics, a system for filing taxes, had been breached and around 600,000 to 700,000 organizations were affected.  Here is more on the Urban Institute hack from a previous Think Tank Watch post.

Here is a statement on the data breach from the Heritage Foundation.  It says that the breach was of data that was six years old and on an external server.

Currently, the Heritage Foundation has 12 different "membership" levels.  The lowest level is the "basic member" one for $25, and the highest is the "founder" level at $100,000.

For those conservatives not phased by the data breach, don't forget that Heritage now accepts donations with Visa, MasterCard, American Express, and Discovery.

During the past few years, it has been publicly (and privately) disclosed that nearly every major US think tank has been hacked.  Besides attacks on Heritage and Urban Institute, Think Tank Watch has documented hacks on think tanks such as the Aspen Institute, Brookings, American Enterprise Institute (AEI), Center for American Progress (CAP), Council on Foreign Relations (CFR), and Center for Strategic and International Studies (CSIS).