Breach Brief – Everybody’s Voter Data!
This election year is shaping up to be a maddening event with more than just your usual election year shenanigans, twisted facts, deliberate lies and social media conspiracies. Now we have a massive voter data breach to add to the mess.
Security researchers have identified databases containing detailed information about voters across the nation listed for sale on several hacker forums.
Cybersecurity firm Trustwave, claims the database contains 186 million records. For the record that is probably every U.S. voter.
Look at it like this; in 2016 126 million voters cast a ballot in the election representing a 20-year low in voter participation. However, this year analysts expect the election to draw a record-breaking turnout. How much of record? According to the U.S. Elections Project there has already been 47 million early ballots cast.
But back to the data breach. The leaked databases may contain a wealth of highly personal information, including names, addresses, age, gender, contact details and even political affiliation.
The voter database was initially discovered on RaidForums.com, a website that allows members to sell and acquire stolen data.
According to Trustwave, hacked databases are normally sold for up to a thousand dollars in bitcoin. But in this case the seller of the complete voter database, who goes by the handle GreenMoon2019, is offering to negotiate a price over direct message.
Voter data, though much of it is publicly available, still has value. An analysis of one bitcoin wallet used to pay GreenMoon2019, which was created only in May, showed receipt of more than $100 million in payments. So this tells you that someone out there is willing to pay for this data and they have the money.
Many voter databases are the property of private companies or entities. Often either data collectors or political organizations. It is unlikely any have all 180 million plus voters in their data base, but you never know.
Banter on the website forum indicates that the voter database is a collections of information stolen from unknown sources with data that is publicly available to download from the North Carolina State Board of Elections (NCSBE.gov) website.
“I can’t believe this information is just publicly listed on there [sic] site, it includes details about each vote like date of birth, address, party affiliation and address,” wrote one forum member.
In a warning to the NCSBE Trustwave warned that cybercriminals were discussing the data online. NCSBE responded insisting the information available consists of public records only.
All data breaches have an impact on citizens whose information has been exposed. But this year the potential for harm is particularly high in the context of an election already on the verge of spinning out of control due to external intervention and internal division. For example, this week Iranian intelligence was found to be responsible for a pro-Trump email campaign designed to intimidate Florida voters.
According to Trustwave there is real fear that malicious actors could use voter information to “conduct effective social engineering scams and spread disinformation to potentially impact the elections, particularly in swing states”.