Cybersecurity Insight

US Voter Database Systems Hacked by Russian Government

31 Aug

A group of Russian cyber attackers seem keen on disrupting various facets of the American government. The most recent victims? State-level voter database systems being used in the upcoming November election and more pressing primaries that are taking place today and in the coming months. What’s interesting is that, despite the number of attacks supposedly linked to the Russian government, the two attacks against Illinois and Arizona allowed researchers to find the closest link to date. So what information were they able to attain, and how were they able to attain it? More importantly, is it going to truly hinder the upcoming elections?

Both Illinois and Arizona’s voter database systems were targeted, but the attack styles themselves were different. Illinois officials reported that over 200,000 unique voter information files were downloaded by hackers in July, prompting a complete shutdown of the system. Meanwhile, Arizona dealt with, luckily, an unsuccessful bout of malware that had been installed on a county election official’s computer. Just in case, the state’s voter registration system went dark for nine days in order to remedy the situation. Furthermore, both Illinois and Arizona are in contact with their Board of Elections to determine further similarities in the logs collected within the duration of the attacks.

There are a few reasons to consider why the Russians may be behind this particular slew of attacks. For one, they have been linked, more or less, to previous US government organizations. The IP, or Internet Protocol, address is the same in both attacks, proving that the threats to both voter database systems originated from the same location. Unfortunately, though independent research has proven time and again that state and local voter database systems are extremely vulnerable, the Department of Homeland Security has stopped short of calling it “critical infrastructure”, which would allow it to receive federal government protections.