Report says cyberattack on Knox County election website came from from foreign countries, including Ukraine

Investigators found evidence of a “malicious intrusion” into the Knox County Election Commission’s website from a computer in Ukraine during a concerted cyberattack as results of this month’s local primary election were being reported, reports the Associated Press.

Cyber-security experts hired by Knox County to analyze the so-called “denial of service” cyberattack, said Friday that “a suspiciously large number of foreign countries” accessed the site as votes were being reported on May 1.

That intense activity was among the likely causes of the crash, according to the report by Sword & Shield Enterprise Security.

“Given the circumstantial evidence_especially the simultaneous proven malicious intrusion from a Ukraine IP address_I think it is reasonable to at least hypothesize that it was an intended event,” David Ball, the county’s deputy director of information technology, added in an email to The Associated Press.

County officials said no voting data was affected, but the site was down for an hour after the polls closed, causing confusion before technicians fixed the problem.

The vulnerability identified by Sword & Shield has been fixed and additional safeguards are now in place, said Ball.

The election results, to be officially certified later this month, left Glenn Jacobs, also known as the pro wrestler Kane, ahead by 17 votes in the Republican primary for Knox County’s mayor. (Note: That was the election night tally; later, after some provisional ballots were counted, Jacobs’ victory margin rose to 23 votes.)

…Ball said “the bottom line is that there was a proven malicious attack from a foreign source occurring simultaneously with an apparent deliberate DOS attack. Nothing was held back from Sword and Shield, and their assessment was well aligned with our initial assessment on election night.”

Knox County uses Hart InterCivic’s eSlate electronic voting machines, which do not create a paper record of the votes. Ball said Hart’s equipment “is not networked in any way.”

Joyce McCants, a spokeswoman for the FBI in Knoxville, said Knox County has not reached out to the FBI in relation to the website crash.

Election security experts have raised concerns that foreign state actors could use such attacks to erode public confidence in the democratic process. Projects like Defend Digital Democracy at Harvard University have been urging elections officials across the country to prepare for exactly such scenarios.

Note: Previous post HERE.

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