Tea Party Patriots Citizens Fund, GOP super PAC, suffers data leak due to misconfigured cloud server
Internal documents belonging to the Tea Party Patriots Citizens Fund, a Republican super PAC, were publicly exposed online as a result of a misconfigured database, including material involving the 2016 U.S. presidential race and call lists containing the names and phone numbers of more than a half-million people, a cybersecurity firm said Wednesday.
Upguard, a Silicon Valley-based cybersecurity firm that made the discovery, said its researchers came across a publicly available database in August containing over 2 gigabytes of files belonging to the Tea Party Patriots Citizens Fund, or TPPCF, a federal super PAC that raised and spent millions for conservative causes since its founding in 2013.
Among the trove of exposed files were calls lists containing the names and phone numbers for more than 527,000 individuals, as well as “strategy documents, call scripts, marketing assets and other files revealing a focused effort to politically mobilize U.S. voters,” according to the Upguard.
The files were found on a misconfigured Amazon Web Services S3 “bucket,” or cloud server, and were eventually made private after being brought to the super PAC’s attention, Upguard reported.
“The presence of the names and phone numbers of nearly 527,000 Americans makes this more than an exposure of organizational data, but a breach of privacy for people singled out by political analysis systems as high value targets for TPPCF’s efforts,” the security firm said in a post detailing its finding.
“Cloud resources offer versatility and connectivity, but must be carefully managed to prevent sensitive information from being exposed to the internet at large. As political data becomes ever more integral to the political process, the integrity of that data must be protected with the same urgency with which it is acquired and used,” the post said.
A spokesperson for the super PAC acknowledged the data leak when reached by The Washington Times early Thursday.
“We take security of our information very seriously. We have already begun to take active steps to ensure our files are completely secure so that such an incident won’t happen again,” said the TPPCF spokesperson.
TPPCF has received and spent roughly $22.2 million in contributions between 2013 and 2018, according to online Federal Election Commission records.
The super PAC’s previous efforts involved mobilizing Republican voters during the 2016 U.S. presidential race and supporting candidates conservative candidates including former U.S. Senate hopeful Roy Moore, Alabama Republican, among others, and the group initially endorsed Sen. Ted Cruz, Texas Republican, in the 2016 White House race prior to President Trump securing the GOP’s nomination.