Man tied to former Rep. Katie Hill’s campaign arrested for hacking website of opponent in 2018

2020-02-21 19:05:47

Federal agents arrested a man in California on Friday on a charge of computer hacking for attacks that disrupted the website of a California Democratic congressional candidate in 2018. 

The man, Arthur Dam, is married to a former fundraiser for the campaign of former Rep. Katie Hill, who won the race for California’s 25th District, according to a criminal complaint. 

Hill later resigned from office after nude photos of her were published on a conservative blog and allegations surfaced of an inappropriate relationship with staffers.

Dam is accused of conducting Distributed Denial of Service attacks against one of Hill’s opponents. In such an attack, a website is overloaded with traffic, causing it to crash and go offline.

Hill said she was “surprised and disturbed” by the news. 

“I have no information or knowledge about any of the conduct alleged,” she said in a written statement. “These charges do not reflect in any way on the thousands of honest, hard-working staff, volunteers and supporters who worked on my campaign, to whom I owe so much.”

Dam is being released on a $25,000 bond, with an arraignment set for March 19, according to the Central District of California U.S. Attorney’s Office. USA TODAY has reached out to his lawyer.

The criminal complaint says the attacks were traced to Dam’s Amazon Web Services account, which he logged into at the time of the attacks.

Federal Election Commission records show Dam donated hundreds of dollars to Hill’s campaign, including one contribution with a memo line reading, “In kind: Graphic design and website security consultation.”

Leaving because of ‘double standard’: California Rep. Katie Hill gives final speech in Congress

Democrat Bryan Caforio, a California attorney who lost to Hill in the primary by less than 3,000 votes, said he was the target of the attacks. Reports at the time said his website was compromised during a candidate debate, which the complaint notes.

The four attacks took down the website for a total of about 21 hours, according to the complaint.

“The Victim reported suffering losses, including website downtime, a reduction in campaign donations, and time spent by campaign staff and others conducting critical incident response,” the complaint reads.

Caforio told USA TODAY that he cooperated with the FBI investigation. He said he was “shocked and saddened” to learn who the FBI says was responsible.

“Of course, what was on everybody’s minds after 2016 was Russia,” Caforio said, referring to his reaction at the time. “It’s really disappointing to see that this actually is traced back to a Democrat, and it’s really a somber reminder that it isn’t just Russia who’s a threat to our democracy.

“There are bad actors on all sides who are willing to do anything for their own personal gain, and we need to come together as Americans to defend our country.”

The criminal complaint alleges that the URLs sending the traffic to Caforio’s website appeared to come from USA TODAY, Google and Engadget, “all of which are legitimate information companies.” But the referring URLs on those sites didn’t exist, suggesting they were spoofed.

Caforio said he can’t be sure whether his website’s downtime contributed to his narrow loss in the primary, but he said his campaign spent significant resources trying to address the issue.

“You never know what ultimately made the final difference,” he said. “At key parts of the election, our campaign was spending days and resources not talking to voters, but dealing with this criminal attack.”

California’s 25th District encompasses parts of northern Los Angeles County and extends into Ventura County. It was represented by Republicans for more than two decades prior to Hill’s 2018 victory, in what was considered a swing district race.

This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: Arthur Dam, spouse of Katie Hill ex-fundraiser, faces hacking charge

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