Sat | Dec 5, 2020

Russian hackers targeting state, local networks

Published:Friday | October 23, 2020 | 12:14 AM
In this October 20, 2020 file photo, an election worker pulls a stack of returned ballots from a sorting machine at the King County Elections Office on Tuesday in Renton, Washington.
In this October 20, 2020 file photo, an election worker pulls a stack of returned ballots from a sorting machine at the King County Elections Office on Tuesday in Renton, Washington.

WASHINGTON (AP):

US officials said Thursday that Russian hackers have targeted the networks of dozens of state and local governments in the United States in recent days, stealing data from at least two servers. The warning, less than two weeks before the election, amplified fears of the potential for tampering with the vote and undermining confidence in the results. The alert describes an onslaught of recent activity from Russian state-sponsored hacking groups in recent days against state and local networks, some of which were successfully compromised. The advisory from the FBI and the Department of Homeland Security’s cybersecurity agency functions as a reminder of Russia’s potent capabilities and ongoing interference in the election even after US officials publicly called out Iran at a news conference on Wednesday night.

The advisory does not mention any of the specific victims who were targeted, but officials say they have no information that any election or government operations have been affected or that the integrity of elections data has been compromised.

“However, the actor may be seeking access to obtain future disruption options, to influence US policies and actions, or to delegitimise (state and local) government entities,” the advisory said.

Interference warnings

US officials have repeatedly said it would be extremely difficult for hackers to alter vote tallies in a meaningful way, but they have warned about other methods of interference that could include cyberattacks on networks to impede the voting process or the production of spoofed websites or other faked content aimed at causing voters to mistrust the results.

A broad concern, particularly at the local government level, has been that hackers could infiltrate a county network and then work their way over to election-related systems unless certain defences, such as firewalls, are in place. This is especially true for smaller counties that don’t have as much money and IT support as their bigger counterparts to fund security upgrades.