With two weeks remaining before Iowa kicks off the 2012 campaign with its first-in-the-nation presidential caucuses, the state Republican Party is taking steps to secure its electronic vote collection system after receiving a mysterious threat to its computers.
A video claiming to be from a collective of computer hackers has jolted party officials with a worst-case scenario: an Iowa caucus marred by hackers who successfully corrupt the database used to gather vote totals and crash the website used to inform the public about results that can shape the campaign for the White House.
While confident in the safeguards protecting the vote count itself, and aware the video may be a hoax, members of the state Republican Party’s central committee told The Associated Press they are taking the threat seriously and have authorized additional security measures to ensure hackers are unable to delay the release of results.
The party fears such a delay could disrupt the traditional influence of the Iowa caucuses. Candidates who do well tend to gain momentum in the presidential race, while those finishing at the back of the pack may drop out.
“With the eyes of the media on the state, the last thing we want to do is have a situation where there is trouble with the reporting system. We don’t want that to be the story,” said Wes Enos, a member of the central committee and the political director for Minnesota Rep. Michele Bachmann’s campaign in Iowa.
The two-minute video features a computer-generated voice denouncing what it calls a corrupt political system that favors corporations and calls on supporters to “peacefully shut down the first-in-the-nation Iowa caucuses.” The video claims to be from Anonymous, a loosely organized group of hackers that has claimed credit for attacks on targets ranging from the Peruvian government to Paypal.
A former activist for Occupy Des Moines, Clarke Davidson, has acknowledged posting the video on YouTube. He said he did so after masked men left it outside his tent near the state Capitol on Nov. 3.