FBI warns of possible state election-system hacks

31 August 2016, 07:03 | Noah Barnes

The FBI has sent a warning to election officials after discovering that hackers had breached two state voter registration databases, Yahoo News reported on Monday.

Federal investigators believe hackers based outside of the United States are behind a pair of cyberattacks reported over the summer against election systems in two states, according to an FBI flash alert obtained by Yahoo!

The hack of the DNC, and other recent breaches against government groups, has generated fears that foreign hackers are trying to interfere with this year's USA presidential election.

A high-profile data breach of the Democratic National Committee last month stoked fears that hackers may be trying to interfere with the USA presidential election. Kremlin officials have denied the allegations of Moscow's involvement.

The FBI has warned that Arizona and IL voter registration systems were infiltrated by foreign hackers who downloaded personal data on up to 200,000 voters.

In the two attempts, data from as many as 200,000 voter records in the U.S. state of IL was stolen, the officials told NBC News.

Some of that stolen data includes driver license numbers and the last four digits of voters' Social Security numbers, he said. The information in voter registration data, combined with information taken in the breach of the Democratic Party, and in breaches of other political organizations may be enough to form the baseline data for a sophisticated attack on the election itself. The Aug. 18, 2016, warning came just days after Homeland Security Secretary Jeh Johnson hosted a call with secretaries of state and other state elections officials to talk about cybersecurity and the election infrastructure. Rich Barger, chief intelligence officer for cybersecurity firm ThreatConnect, told Yahoo that one of the IP addresses has been identified in Russian criminal underground hacker forums.

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He says the data accessed are not tied to vote-counting software so election results could not be altered.

The FBI has issued a nationwide alert about the possible hacking of state voting records, but the Iowa Secretary of State's office reports there has been no tampering with Iowa voting records.

The spokesman, Matt Roberts, told The Washington Post the Federal Bureau of Investigation said the threat was "an 8 on a scale of 1 to 10".

The security advisory states that the attacks in July and August both emanated from IP addresses in the Netherlands and used Acunetix, SQLMap, and DirBuster tools. But the state concluded that the system was not successfully breached.

An FBI spokeswoman would not comment on the alerts but said the agency "routinely advises" on "various cyber threat indicators observed during the course of our investigations".

Johnson said DHS isn't aware of any specific cyber threat against election-related networks, but he urged officials to examine how to better secure their systems, according to a summary of the call put out by the department.

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