Week in Review: U.S. Voter Databases, Leslie Jones & NYT

Media Division | September 9, 2016

U.S. Voter Databases, Leslie Jones and the NYT

Cyber threats took a bullying turn this week. As we look back on the recent news in the cyber intelligence world it seems persecution of celebrities, voters and reporters was on the hack-hack-genda (hactivist agenda) this week.

Breach of U.S. Voter Databases

News broke out of Illinois this week that a voter database, including data on some 200 voters, may have been leaked through malware.  Arizona may have suffered the same breach, and other states are being urged to thoroughly examine their own systems for similar infiltrations.  Small potatoes, perhaps, until you consider the implications:

1. that Russia appears to be behind the attacks—State-sponsored espionage out of Russia has recently been implicated in a number of breaches surrounding the U.S. political system, including the Democratic National Convention and Hillary Clinton’s emails.

2. that more states may have been violated, but not yet reported—Independent assessment suggests that voting registration systems, which contain personal data on registered voters, may be relatively accessible to hackers.

3. that tampering with election outcome may be in the works—While Russia has been accused of interfering with the election process in other nations, and to date the hacks of the U.S. political system have not had direct bearing on the upcoming presidential election, the implication is that Russia may intend to alter the results in November.

Leslie Jones’ Website Hacked

In other news this week, the hilarious Leslie Jones, star of the recent female-led “Ghostbusters,” had her personal website hacked.  Included in the leak were her driver’s license, passport and even what appear to be personal nude photos.

The hack follows sexist, racist Twitter attacks, which Jones has channeled into activism. She met with Twitter execs about preventing such social media attacks.  She provided hilarious and insightful commentary on the recent Rio Olympics Games for NBC.  She has sometimes tearfully, often gracefully navigated the circumstances shedding light on both cyber-attack as a form of bullying and issues of free-speech versus outright disgusting hate-speech.

The FBI Investigates an Attack on The New York Times

In other cyber-bullying news, it appears Russia has targeted reporters at The New York Times and other news agencies.  While NYT has stated that the attacks were unsuccessful, they have admitted the Federal Bureau of Investigation is looking into the matter.

So why hack a news agency, why not just subscribe to the newspaper?  While both the perpetrators and their intentions remain speculation, possibilities include:

• Additional insight into the political system, since reporters may have ties to politicians or news speculation not published by the paper.

• Other contacts by news agencies, including potentially secret or anonymous insider communications and maybe even undercover operations.

• Mailing lists, credit card information and subscriber data, just like other corporations who get hacked and their data sold to the highest bidder on the dark web.

• Analysis or insight into U.S. operations and viewpoints, through the eyes of a news agency (traditional spying with a 21st century spin).

Whatever the reasons, and whether or not Russia is factually to blame, the attempted hacks serve as an additional reminder to update security protocols and stay abreast of cyber intelligence feeds.  Just as other states have been warned of possible voter database breaches, other celebrities, other newspapers, and your own organization can learn from successful and attempted attack strategies to implement proactive security operations.

Consider cyber threat feeds and analysis like carrying mace when you walk down a dark city street: you might need it, but it’s good to know you have it in your pocket just in case.

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