Knox County IT director Dick Moran and county IT staff were ready for Election Day and the higher amounts of traffic that would undoubtedly come to the county election commission website with former WWE wrestler, Glenn Jacobs, on the Republican ballot. At 7:50 p.m. Moran instructed the website be checked to make sure the early voting results could be posted when the polls closed 10 minutes later. Everything checked out. Everything was working. Sign Up: Get breaking news headlines in your inbox. Seven minutes after his request, Knox County’s election commission website was attacked and the results, although not impacted by the attack, wouldn’t be displayed until nearly 9 p.m., sowing more chaos into an already energetic and unpredictable night. All of the disruption, it has been determined since, was an effort to distract the county while another, simultaneous attack was happening behind the scenes accessing county information, according to Moran and Deputy IT Director David Ball.
The original and much less hidden cyberattack, a distributed-denial-of-service attack, was an attempt to overload the county server’s capacity with high internet traffic. It worked.
The internet protocol addresses – unique numbers that identify individual web portals – tied to the cyberattack spanned every continent but Antarctica, 65 countries in all.
The attack worked by tying up space in the server. A request came to the server, the server accepted it and sent a message back to the requester. By this time, the request had ended and another request had been made from a different IP address, but the server was still waiting on a response from the original request.