Breaches Into State Election Databases Broader Than Initially Thought

September 29, 2016

Cyber attacks against state election databases were more widespread than initially believed, law enforcement officials said Thursday.

Roughly ten state systems were breached by hackers in attacks similar to those launched against election networks in Arizona and Illinois last month, CBS News reported. U.S. officials have widened their investigation into state election systems, believing more have been probed.

Cyber security experts said it has become evident the Russian government is attempting to influence the U.S. election and predicted the attacks would continue ahead of Nov. 8.

While the hackers who targeted Arizona’s election system did not compromise voter data, experts say the "real danger" would be the deletion of voter registrations.

"Let’s say they wanted to intervene on the side of [Donald] Trump. Then what you would do is find a way of invalidating the voter registrations, deleting the voter registrations of 10 percent of the Democrats in the state. That would make 10 percent of them ineligible to vote," Herbert Lin, a senior research scholar for cyber policy and security at Stanford University, told CBS News.

In an attempt to ease heightened concerns over Russian-linked cyber attacks, state officials penned an open letter to Congress on Monday vowing that the election is safeguarded against breaches given the decentralized structure of voting systems.

The National Associated of Secretaries of State noted that Americans will cast their ballot on Nov. 8 at hundreds of thousands of polling locations that function offline and are independent of any sort of national database, making it "highly unlikely that hackers can hijack election outcomes."

Still, cyber security experts remain concerned about states using touch-screen voting machines that don’t leave a paper trail.

The FBI warned local election officials last month to ramp up cyber security measures after uncovering the election system breaches in Arizona and Illinois.