According to a FBI warning, hackers broke into the election databases of two states in recent weeks. Federal officials urged election authorities across the nation to beef up the security of their servers and websites.
The news comes amid concerns that state-sponsored Russian hackers carried out the recent high-profile cyber-attacks such as those targeting the Democratic National Convention’s and New York Times’ servers.
U.S. intelligence officials believe that foreign entities orchestrated the attacks to disrupt the incoming presidential elections. As a result, the Homeland Security Secretary thinks the issue is important enough to lend a hand.
More than a week ago, DHS chief Jeh Johnson offered the departent’s help in improving the security of state election systems. Johnson even agreed to deploy federal cybersecurity technicians to scan databases for breaches.
The DHS, however, dismissed rumors that the state election systems may face any “specific or credible cybersecurity threats.” The department noted that these systems are safe because they are close systems.
Despite the reassuring news a few days after the DHS statement, FBI’ Cyber Division alerted state election officials that federal agents are investigating two breaches into state election systems.
The bureau described the intrusions as “serious” and called for precaution. According to the alert, hackers probably breached two election websites and compromised voter registration data.
One FBI investigator described the findings as eye-opening. The bureau added that it is conducting an investigation into the matter. Nevertheless, officials declined to disclose the name of the two states.
According to sources who agreed to speak under the condition of anonymity, the hack most probably targeted Illinois and Arizona. According to official sources, Illinois authorities closed down the national voter registration system for ten days late last month. Reportedly, hackers stole voter registration data on 200,000 people.
In Arizona, the hack was not as damaging. State officials announced that hackers did infect the election system with malware, but they weren’t able to steal any data.
Eight IP Addresses Involved in the Attacks
The FBI alert, on the other hand, provided details on who the authors of the attacks might be. Federal investigators found that eight IP addresses were behind the attacks. Interestingly enough, one IP address appeared in both attacks.
Federal officials now think that the two election site breaches may have a common author. The FBI is now trying to find clues on whether hackers plan to attack more states.
According to the alert, state officials should check to see whether hackers compromised their election systems as well. FBI cyber specialists recommend not to “touch or ping IP addresses directly.”
Cyber experts who analyzed the hacks said that one of the eight IP addresses first appeared on hacker forums. Additionally, the cyber tools and methods in the two hacks, are very similar to other probable state-sponsored hacks such as the one targeting the World Anti-Doping Agency.
The FBI declined to confirm the associations. It said that the recent alert is designed to help web masters and system administrators prevent other similar nefarious actions from cyber criminals.
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