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Hackers Targeted Voter Databases in 20 States – Outdated Voting Machines to Save the 2016 US Election

Rafia Shaikh
Posted Sep 30, 2016
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Voter registration systems in at least 20 states have been targeted by hackers, a Homeland Security official has confirmed. It hasn’t been determined if these threats were domestic or foreign, but Russia remains the primary suspect.

Hackers target nearly half of the states’ voter registration systems ahead of the US election

Only a month away, the United States presidential election has attracted quite a lot of hacker attention. According to the Associated Press, Homeland Security has confirmed that 20 state voter registration systems were hacked in the past few months. This latest official confirmation follows the August warning that was sent by the Federal Bureau of Investigation. The FBI had issued a bulletin last month warning that hackers had infiltrated the Illinois State Board of Elections.

The FBI received information of an additional IP address, 5.149.249.172, which was detected in the July 2016 compromise of a state’s Board of Election Web site. Additionally, in August 2016 attempted intrusion activities into another state’s Board of Election system identified the IP address, 185.104.9.39 used in the aforementioned compromise.

A spokesman for the Arizona secretary of state had said that the state “got word from the FBI that a credential was leaked by a Russian hacker.” The hacker was a known entity to the law enforcement. ABC News now reports that the voter registration systems were targeted by “foreign hackers, and four of those systems have successfully been breached.”

Hackers working on behalf of the Russian government are suspected in the onslaught against more than 20 state election systems, according to sources with knowledge of the matter.

Outdated, offline voting machines to save the election from cyber attacks

While these aren’t the actual voting systems but attacks on voter registration databases, the Bureau and states are working together to confront any threats leading into the election. There are concerns that foreign hackers (read, Russia) may try to influence the results of the election. As hacking attempts continue to influence the 2016 US presidential election, Congress is looking into whether these cyber attacks could actually affect the November ballot.

A congressional hearing invited 5 high-ranking officials from the Homeland Security and the US Election Assistance Commission along with cybersecurity experts. All five experts agreed that a cyber attack would not affect the outcome of the election. The officials noted that the electronic voting system’s best line of defense against cyber attacks is that the machines aren’t connected to the internet. Hackers would actually need to show up to hijack the presidential election.

Earlier in June, the WaPo had reported that the Russian hackers targeted the networks of Donald Trump and Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton. The spies also tried to breach computers of some Republican political action committees. The cyber attack was a comprehensive and sophisticated attempt, enabling intruders to read all email and chat traffic on the committee’s system.

FBI’s James Comey told the House Judiciary Committee this Wednesday that the agency is figuring out “just what mischief is Russia up to in connection with our election.” The head of the agency again repeated FBI’s earlier security recommendations that the states should contact the Department of Homeland Security to “make sure that their deadbolts are thrown and their locks are on.”

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