US election day faces specter of cyberattacks

Hackers might use DDoS attacks and high-profile leaks to influence Tuesday's election

By Michael Kan
Nov. 8, 2016


"I think that's absolutely a possibility," said Justin Fier, director of cyber intelligence and analysis with security firm Dark Trace. "It's really very difficult in these cases to vet that information and to declare it to be authentic."

Last Friday, the hacker Guccifer 2.0 attempted to rally hackers and his supporters to his cause when he warned that Democrats could rig Tuesday's election. He previously leaked files stolen from the Democratic National Committee.

However, Guccifer 2.0 has also been caught faking claims, with him saying he hacked the Clinton Foundation and providing evidence that was later debunked. On Friday, he alleged he had become an "independent election observer" by registering himself with the U.S. Federal Election Commission.

The FEC, however, has nothing to do with casting ballots. Instead, the agency oversees campaign finance rules. It does not register election observers.

To prevent a possible disruption on Tuesday, the U.S. government has been working with local election jurisdictions on security. All 50 states have sought federal assistance with protecting election systems from cyber attack, a Department of Homeland Security official said on Friday. 

Nevertheless, that might not be enough to assuage concerns over Election Day hacking. The appearance of any cyberattack on Tuesday might set off doubts that the U.S. voting system has been rigged. 

"For people who don't understand botnets or DDoS attacks, they might think the problem is really bigger than it is," Hamilton said.

"This can get wrapped up into a big ball of anxiety," he added. "But we have nothing to fear but fear itself."

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