Officials in Knox County, Tennessee, are trying to gather more information about a cyberattack that crashed a government website that displayed election results to the public during its primary election for local offices on Tuesday. Dick Moran, the county’s top IT official, believes Knox County was the target of a denial-of-service attack in which actors with both domestic and foreign IP addresses deliberately flooded the county’s servers with traffic to try and crash them. The county website displaying election results went down for about an hour as polls closed on Tuesday. The crash meant that people who went to check election results between 8 and 9 p.m. on election night received an error message, according to the Knoxville News Sentinel. While the website was down, election officials printed out hard copies of the election results and gave them to reporters, WBIR, a local NBC affiliate, reported. Knox County Mayor Tim Burchett (R) said on Wednesday that the crash didn’t impact “vote tallies or the integrity of the election,” but that the county had hired a security firm to investigate the cause of the crash.
… Candice Hoke, a co-founder of the Center for Cybersecurity and Privacy Protection at Ohio’s Cleveland-Marshall College of Law, said it was premature for Burchett to say that no votes had been changed.
“Without a forensic evaluation, there’s no way for them to accurately conclude that ‘the crash did not affect the vote tallies or the integrity of the election,’” she wrote in an email. “We do not know if only the web servers were impacted by the attack or if a broader impact occurred. It’s often the case that a DDOS attack is used as a distraction while another more insidious attack — such as on the tabulation servers — is occurring.”
Hoke added that it was a positive sign that the county was bringing in a firm to analyze the incident, but wanted to know how thorough the analysis would be and whether the final report would be publicly available. She also said it was uncommon to see a denial of service attack on an election night, but expected them to increase this year because counties now store much more voter information online.