Leading up to Nov. 6, 2018, anyone with a stake in American democracy was holding their breath. After a Russian effort leading up to 2016 to sow chaos and polarization, and to degrade confidence in American institutions, what sort of widespread cyberattack awaited the voting system in the first national election since? None, it seems.
“We didn’t see any coordinated effort or targeting that interrupted the elections process,” said Matt Masterson, a senior cybersecurity adviser at the Department of Homeland Security. “[Nothing] that prevented folks from voting or compromised election systems in any way … certainly nowhere close to what we saw in 2016.” Experts say that is not because U.S. election systems are hardened in a way that prevents such attacks.
The House GOP campaign arm suffered a major hack during the 2018 midterm campaigns, exposing thousands of sensitive emails to an outside intruder, according to three senior party officials. The email accounts of four senior aides at the National Republican Congressional Committee were surveilled for several months, the party officials said.
The intrusion was detected in April by an NRCC vendor, who alerted the committee and its cybersecurity contractor. An internal investigation was initiated, and the FBI was alerted to the attack, said the officials. However, senior House Republicans — including Speaker Paul Ryan of Wisconsin, Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy of California and Majority Whip Steve Scalise of Louisiana — were not informed of the hack.
Read more about the NRCC hack during the midterm campaigns on Politico.
The Pentagon and the US intelligence community plan to launch a counter-cyberattack on Russia if the country interferes with US midterm elections, according to a recent report from the Center for Public Integrity. In preparation, US military hackers have already been given permission to access Russian cybersystems necessary to complete the attack, said the report.
This movement is one of the cyber battle plans organized since President Donald Trump signed an executive order that streamlines the review of such operations, said the report. Essentially, the new policy allows for potential offensive actions to be executed more quickly upon attack.
Read more about how the US plans to combat possible Russian influence in the midterm elections on TechRepublic.
Toss around accusations of a failed attempt to hack a state’s voter registration system — without actually providing any proof — that’s one way to really stir things up right before the midterm elections.
That is what Brian Kemp, Georgia’s current secretary of state — who is also the Republican candidate for governor — did on Sunday. With the midterm elections just a few days away, Kemp accused the Democratic Party of Georgia of hacking the state’s voter registration system. Democrat Stacey Abrams, his opponent, called it “a reckless and unethical ploy” to mislead voters.
On both sides of the political aisle, at every level of government, and throughout the tech industry, the United States is grappling with fundamental cybersecurity threats to its elections. The country is also planning for how to react when things go wrong, both during this crucial midterm election and in the 2020 general election.
Understanding modern election security means coming to grips with a daunting reality: especially in the United States, the infrastructure is too fragmented, outdated, and vulnerable to be completely secured. There are also far too many different types of attacks across the threat landscape to ever stop them all.
Read more about the cybersecurity threats to US elections on PC Magazine.
After Election Day two years ago, one thing became clear: foreign powers, notably Russia, had attempted to interfere in the American democratic process. They used various methods, and had varying degrees of success. Whether those efforts had a decisive impact is less certain. But such a brazen assault on U.S. elections by an adversarial nation left many Americans worrying: Can our elections be hacked?
The short answer to that question is, mostly likely, yes. But the longer answer concerns not just if voting machines can be compromised, but also how fear itself can work to undermine American democracy.
Read more about how experts view the risk of election hacking on Time.
A new SEO poisoning campaign has been discovered that is targeting keywords associated with the U.S. midterm elections.
SEO poisoning is when attackers create malicious sites or hack legitimate ones in order to generate pages that promote certain keywords. These pages are then linked together between a large amount of sites under the attacker’s control to get high rankings in search engine results for the promoted keywords. The visitors to these sites are then typically shown scam advertisements or are redirected to other sites pushing unwanted software or infecting users via exploit kits.
Up to 35 million US voter records have been found up for sale on a popular hacking forum from 19 states, researchers discovered.
Researchers at Anomali Labs and Intel 471 have discovered Dark Web communications offering a large quantity of voter databases for sale – including valuable personally identifiable information and voter history. This represents the first indication of 2018 voter registration data for sale on a hacking forum, said the researchers. The discovery comes weeks before the US November mid-term elections.
Read more about the discovery of millions of US voter records on an undisclosed Dark Web hacking forum om Threatpost.
The intelligence community and cybersecurity experts are in lockstep agreement that elections in the U.S. remain vulnerable to hacking and influence campaigns, like efforts deployed by Russia in 2016. But they warn that the threat from a broader range of diverse actors is also growing, posing a unique challenge for governments and corporations around the world.
These cyber-attackers are driven by a variety of motivations, says Andrea Little Limbago, the chief social scientist at data security firm Endgame. “As long as attackers find it in their best interests or find the motivation to want to have some sort of effect … they’re going to think about what they could do with that access,” she says. “Especially China, Russia, and Iran.”
Read more about the hackers targeting the US midterm election on CBS.
The attempted hack came to light after CNN and the Washington Post published news stories about a phishing attempt against a website owned by the DNC. The reports cited an alert issued by US cyber-security firm and government contractor Lookout.
Read more about the attempted hack that proved to be simulated phishing test, one which had not been authorized by the DNC, on BleepingComputer.