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Election Databases Are Now in the Crosshairs of Hackers

With the recent U.S. presidential election fresh on everyone's minds, the Federal Bureau of Investigation and the Department of Homeland Security are both seeing a surge in the number of hackers who are targeting voting systems and election databases. The increase in activities has prompted both entities to issue warnings regarding the potential of cyber attacks this election season.

A letter, which was sent to the National Association of State Election Directors on behalf of numerous congress members, reads, in part: "The dispersal of responsibility for election administration has made it impossible for a single centrally controlled authority to dictate how elections will be run, and thereby be able to control the outcome. This leaves the power and responsibility for running elections where it should be, in the hands of the citizens of this country."

The highly touted letter, which was signed by Harry Reid, Nancy Pelosi, Paul D. Ryan and Mitch McConnell, went on to express their support for municipalities that are seeking federal assistance to counteract such cyber threats. The letter stated: "We urge the states to take full advantage of the robust public and private sector resources available to them to ensure that their network infrastructure is secure from attack. In addition, the Department of Homeland Security stands ready to provide cybersecurity assistance to those states that choose to request it."

As you can see, this is an issue that is being taken very seriously by the FBI as well as the DHS. In fact, there have already been several instances of such crimes taking place.

Firstly, a report in late August produced evidence regarding the breach of two separate state election databases, one in Illinois and the other in Arizona, which resulted in a flash alert from the FBI's Cyber Division as well as a conference call with Homeland Security Secretary Jeh Johnson. He is suggesting that the U.S. regulates their voting systems just as they would any other type of critical infrastructure.

The Illinois attack resulted in the theft of the personal information of approximately 200,000 voters in the state. Conversely, the attack in Arizona, which specifically targeted voter registration systems, was deemed unsuccessful.

Per initial reports from the FBI and the DHS, a total of 21 states have already contacted them for assistance. While this only represents half of the 50 states, officials are thrilled at the readiness and willingness of those who have already reached out. They also hope to see increased interest in cyber security in the coming days and weeks.

Although there has been no specific cyber threats against this year's presidential election, there's no telling what the future hold. Moreover, there's no way of knowing what some mischievous hacker might be able to cobble together at the last minute. However, as long as we remain aware of the constant threat of cyber attacks, maintain a proactive stance against hackers and take the proper measures to upgrade the nation's security systems to accommodate new and evolving technology, we'll be able to stay one step ahead of would-be cyber criminals.

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