Illinois & Arizona’s Voter Registration systems Attacked by Foreign Govt Sponsored Hackers- Claims FBI
In June and July 2016, the voter registration systems of Illinois and Arizona were hacked by unknown attackers. The FBI stated that bureau alerted the officials regarding the incident — It is being speculated that Russians are the perpetrators of this assault.
Arizona Secretary of State Michele Reagan (R)’s spokesman Matt Roberts said that the FBI has not only alerted the department about the existence of a threat but also about the gravity of the situation. In fact, Roberts went on and stated that as per FBI’s analysis, on a scale of one to ten, the threat scores to 8, which hints on the extent of the threat. Naturally, Reagan ordered shut down of the voter registration system and it remained off for about a week.
However, later on, it was identified that the state system wasn’t infected at all and the hackers could not compromise the state or even the county’s voter registration system. It was also revealed that the hackers have managed to steal username and passwords of one of the election officials based in the Gila County.
The same has happened in Illinois, where officials identified that their election system was compromised in July but hackers could not modify the data. Yet, this attack shows that malicious threat actors are at it again and are gaining such enormous social engineering powers that they are now attacking a state’s voter registration system.
The Illinois attack was quite a sophisticated one and according to the director of the Illinois State Board of Elections’ voting and registration systems, Kyle Thomas, a foreign entity was behind it.
As a result, all the election authorities across the country were notified and alerted about the possibility of network intrusions. As far as Illinois’ hack is concerned, the perpetrators retrieved voter records but the Illinois election board’s general counsel Ken Menzel stated that they were able to access just a “small percentage of the total,” reports The Washington Post.
There may be other breaches too, in fact, Yahoo’s Chief Investigative Correspondent Michael Isikoff reported that two other states are trying to identify traces of possible breaches. While other states are currently busy in making their systems secure from the threat.
Currently, the FBI hasn’t reached a conclusion regarding the background of the hackers and possible motive behind the hack attempt. They are also not sure whether the hackers were backed by the Russian government, intelligence or if it is the work of some private group.
But, all this chaos comes at a time when presidential elections in the United States are just a few months away. The incidents in Illinois and Arizona serve as a strong predictor of what may lie ahead; it also proves the fact that Russia is taking a keen interest in US electoral campaign as well as upcoming elections.
Only recently we reported about the hack attack on the Democratic National Committee’s computer systems. It was indeed a high profile attack and it resulted in the exposure of confidential emails, which led to the not-so-cordial resignation of the Committee’s chairwoman Debbie Wasserman Schultz.
Also, due to the growing threat from Russia, the FBI is also worried about the security conditions of the elections this year and therefore, the bureau has warned state officials to keep monitoring their election systems.
According to cyber security specialist Tyler Cohen Wood of Inspired eLearning (inspiredelearning.com):
“This is indeed an alarming situation because mishandling or modification in the voter registration system would lead to making the entire presidential election questionable and its legitimacy would become doubtful.”
The director of National Intelligence, James R. Clapper Jr., informed Congress that deletion or modification of voter data is most certainly the “next big threat- the next push on the envelope.”
The FBI’s Cyber Division has warned every state in the US with a “Flash Alert,” which contains details about the possibility of a hack attack by either Russian or Chinese hackers. The bureau believes that these Intrusions are part of a bigger plan and the foreign powers are basically trying to disrupt if not sabotage the upcoming presidential elections in the US.
Russia and the US hardly ever agree on anything. Making these allegations will only serve to increase tensions between the two countries. The US has to be sure the hacks are Russian-backed. And even then, the process of deciding the necessary reactions could take a lot of time.
The ugly truth is that the developed nations such as the US, Russia, the Asia bigwigs such as Japan and China and the members of the EU5 perform cyber-espionage on each other and other countries. The entities responsible for these latest hacks may simply be out to embarrass US politicians, or even worse to manipulate the election’s outcome.