FBI warns of pos­si­ble elec­tion-sys­tem hacks

Chronicle (Zimbabwe) - - World­wide -

NEW YORK — The FBI is warn­ing state of­fi­cials to boost their elec­tion se­cu­rity in light of ev­i­dence that hack­ers tar­geted re­lated data sys­tems in two states.

In a con­fi­den­tial “flash” alert from its cy­ber di­vi­sion, first re­ported by Ya­hoo News and posted on­line by oth­ers, the FBI said it’s in­ves­ti­gat­ing the pair of in­ci­dents and ad­vised states to scan their sys­tems for spe­cific signs of hack­ing.

The FBI said on Mon­day that it doesn’t com­ment on spe­cific alerts, but added that it rou­tinely sends out ad­vi­sories to pri­vate in­dus­try about signs of cy­ber threats that it comes across in its in­ves­ti­ga­tions.

The FBI didn’t name the states that were tar­geted, but it de­scribed a “com­pro­mise” of one elec­tions board web­site and “at­tempted in­tru­sion ac­tiv­i­ties” in an­other state’s sys­tem.

State elec­tion web­sites in Illi­nois and Ari­zona ex­pe­ri­enced hack-re­lated shut­downs ear­lier this sum­mer. In both cases, the parts of the web­sites af­fected in­volved on­line voter reg­is­tra­tion.

The FBI’s Au­gust 18 warn­ing also came just days af­ter Home­land Se­cu­rity Sec­re­tary Jeh John­son hosted a call with sec­re­taries of state and other state elec­tion of­fi­cials to talk about cy­ber­se­cu­rity and elec­tion in­fras­truc­ture.

In that call, John­son said that while DHS isn’t aware of any par­tic­u­lar cy­ber threat against elec­tion-re­lated computers, it’s “crit­i­cally im­por­tant” to make sure that elec­tion sys­tems are se­cure amid a rapidly chang­ing threat land­scape, ac­cord­ing to a DHS sum­mary of the call.

In the Ari­zona case, the FBI no­ti­fied state of­fi­cials in June about what the agency called a “crit­i­cal threat” to the state’s voter reg­is­tra­tion sys­tem, which shut down on June 28, ac­cord­ing to Matt Roberts, a spokesper­son for the sec­re­tary of state’s of­fice.

A county worker had down­loaded a piece of mal­ware that ex­posed their ac­cess cre­den­tial and pass­word, which then wound up on­line, Roberts said. A foren­sic ex­am­i­na­tion of the state data­base found no ev­i­dence of unau­tho­rised ac­cess.

Roberts said he’s not pos­i­tive the new FBI’s “flash alert” refers to Ari­zona, but said it ap­pears likely. The sys­tem came back on­line on July 7 with new se­cu­rity fea­tures.

Fed­eral of­fi­cials are be­com­ing in­creas­ingly con­cerned about the pos­si­bil­ity that hack­ers, par­tic­u­larly those work­ing for Russia or an­other coun­try, could breach US elec­tions sys­tems and wreak havoc on the Novem­ber pres­i­den­tial elec­tion.

Some ex­perts, along with Democrat Hil­lary Clin­ton’s cam­paign, be­lieve that Russia was be­hind the em­bar­rass­ing email hack of the Demo­cratic Na­tional Com­mit­tee right be­fore its na­tional con­ven­tion last month.

The hacked emails showed an ap­par­ent lack of neu­tral­ity in the pri­mary race be­tween Clin­ton and Bernie San­ders, with some party of­fi­cials dis­parag­ing San­ders. — AP.

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