With just 11 days to go until the presidential election, U.S. officials have reason for concern that cyberattacks could cause major problems recording the votes of what is expected to be an all-time-high voter turnout. On Friday, some of those fears were realized. Louisiana has called in the National Guard to stop a series of cyberattacks aimed at small government offices across the state. What happened in Louisiana is similar to the situation that occurred in Washington, a cybersecurity expert told newsmax.com. In both instances, hackers infected some government offices with a type of malware known for deploying ransomware. This results in systems locking up and then the government office is essentially held hostage until payment is made to regain access.
What’s unclear is if the hackers were interested in bringing chaos to the election in Louisiana or simply looking for a payday. Experts investigating were able to locate a tool used by the hackers that had been linked to a North Korean group associated with the government. One question that U.S officials and technology companies like Microsoft are trying to get a handle on is whether the hackers share connections with foreign intelligence agencies from Russia, Iran, China and North Korea.
“There are a small number of criminal groups who are responsible for the majority of the ransomware attacks, and so understanding who they are, how they’re organized, who they work with, where they are operating from, is something we’re working on,” Microsoft VP Tom Burt said in an interview.
Luckily the Louisiana attack was caught quickly, and the protocol was in place to minimize the damage, according to Tyler Brey, spokesman for the Louisiana Secretary of State’s office. He said Louisiana is a “top-down state,” where election data is centrally stored, making it easier for election officials to recover from cyberattacks.