According to City of Ashland Cyber Security Consultant Eric Ellason and Bayfield County Director of Information Technology Paul Houck, both municipalities have seen an unusual amount of traffic coming to their sites from Russia. Ellason, who owns and operates SlickRockWeb, Inc., an Internet services firm in Ashland, has contracted with the City of Ashland to operate the city’s website. Ellason provides cyber security services to firms across the country, as well as remediation work for hacked websites. “With all of the talk about Russian involvement in the elections, it prompted me to go and look at the traffic recorded at the city’s website,” he said, That curiosity about what kind of traffic the city’s website was getting from Russia and other eastern European countries led to an unexpected result. “On most websites you are always going to get a little bit of traffic there, and every day there is always somebody looking for a security issue, so you are always going to see a baseline of traffic that is always a little suspect. Most of the time they don’t find anything, they are just trolling for security flaws,” Ellason said. “When I separated out just Russian traffic, there was a huge spike from about March 15 of this year.”
Looking back further, Ellason said he could find no other comparable traffic spike from Russia. “That spike was probably 20 to 30 times greater than any other spike in Russian traffic to the city’s website,” he said. “It has been pretty much sustained from March on, all the way through the election period.”
Ellason said the spike appears to be made up of 20 to 30 different users each day. He said the spike has continued even after the election.
Ellason said the sustained hits on the website was curious, and said the increased traffic does not appear to be coming from other countries like India or Pakistan. “The spikes came only from Russia and Kyrgyzstan,” he said.