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Report: Russian hackers tried — and failed — to breach RNC systems

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Republican National Committee Chairman Reince Priebus shakes hands with President-elect Donald Trump during election night at the New York Hilton Midtown in New York on Nov. 9. (Jim Watson/AFP/Getty Images)

Russian hackers tried — and failed — to hack into the Republican National Committee's computer system using the same methods they allegedly used to gain information from the Democratic National Committee, the Wall Street Journal reported Friday. But while malicious emails sent to the DNC and intended to breach the party's system were successful, an email filter designed to detect messages of that sort protected RNC staffers from prying eyes.

A source familiar with U.S. intelligence agencies' investigation into the Russian hacking of the DNC computer system and Hillary Clinton campaign manager John Podesta's private email account said the RNC was't even aware until June — after the DNC had already announced its security was compromised — that hackers even attempted to breach its system.

After the DNC's bombshell announcement, RNC officials contacted a privately owned security firm, which then notified the FBI, for fear that both major parties had fallen victim to cyberattacks.

While the hacking that led to the release of thousands of emails from DNC staffers and Podesta was originally intended to gather information from both sides, the Journal reported the attempt morphed into something appeared to be targeting Democrats more than Republicans.

“It would be naive [for Republicans] to think they weren’t targeted,” Michael Buratowski, senior vice president at Fidelis Cybersecurity, the private cybersecurity firm that determined Russian hackers were to blame for the DNC hacking, said.

“It doesn’t surprise me at all that they were gone after,” Buratowski added.

The report seems to jive somewhat with what RNC Chairman Reince Priebus told NBC's Chuck Todd on Sunday: “When the DNC was hacked, we called the FBI. The FBI went through everything, and we were not hacked.”

However, while the RNC was not hacked, state-level Republican organizations were compromised, according to the Journal:

Hackers who overran the DNC also successfully stole and then published emails from Republican state-level officials on a website, DCLeaks, that private security experts have linked to the Russian operation allegedly targeting the DNC and the presidential campaign of Mrs. Clinton. The leaked GOP emails received relatively little public attention and consisted of mostly mundane and innocuous correspondence, including inquiries and complaints sent by constituents to generic addresses.

South Carolina Republican Sen. Lindsey Graham, who also ran for president, revealed Wednesday that his campaign was also breached. “I do believe that the Russians hacked into the DNC. I do believe they hacked into Podesta’s email account. They hacked into my campaign account,” Graham told CNN's Wolf Blitzer.

Graham added that his campaign found out in August that it was hacked in June, around the same time the DNC announced its system was compromised.

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