The quarterly incident response (IR) threat report from Carbon Black isn’t usually such an exciting read, aggregating as it does data from across a number of partners in order to provide actionable intelligence for business leaders. The latest report, published today, is a politically charged exception. Not only does it reveal that nation-state politically motivated cyberattacks are on the up, with China and Russia responsible for 41.4% of all the reported attacks, but that voter databases from Alabama to Washington (and 18 others) are for sale on the dark web. These databases cover 21 states in all, with records for 81,534,624 voters that include voter IDs, names and addresses, phone numbers and citizenship status. Tom Kellerman, Carbon Black’s chief cybersecurity officer, describes the nation-state attackers as not “just committing simple burglary or even home invasion, they’re arsonists.” Nobody relishes their house burning down, even figuratively speaking. Which is why, according to another newly published report, this time from Unisys, suggests one in five voters may stay at home during the midterms as they fear their votes won’t count if systems suffer a cyberattack.
Amongst the key findings of the Carbon Black report, however, is the fact that China and Russia were responsible for 41.4% of the investigated attacks analyzed by researchers. The two also lead the pack when it comes to which countries incident response teams are seeing cyberattacks originating from. China was top of the table on 68% with Russia second on 59%. While the continent of North America (the report does not contain statistics that break this down to attacks from the United States alone) was third on 49%$, Iran, North Korea and Brazil were next in line. Earlier this year, Venafi surveyed security professionals with regards to election infrastructure risk. That research revealed that 81% of them thought threat actors will target election data as it is transmitted by voting machines. Worryingly, only 2% were ‘very confident’ in the capability of local, state and federal government to detect such attacks and only 3% thought the same about their abilities to block those attacks.
It’s just as well, then, that it has been reported the United States Cyber Command has now started what is believed to be the first cyber-operation to protect against election interference from Russia. “The attack surface in the US is incredibly broad and fragmented making security highly challenging” says Simon Staffell, head of public affairs at Nominet, who continues “but the response that has taken place in the US is also of an entirely different magnitude to anything seen before.” Yet this response does not appear to target Chinese threat actors. Some may find this omission a surprise, considering that Vice President Pence stated earlier this month that “what the Russians are doing pales in comparison to what China is doing across this country” and suggested that China wants to turn Trump voters against the administration.