Possible Foreign Interference in Brexit Vote



According to a report by the Commons public administration and constitutional affairs committee (PACAC) there may be some evidence that foreign governments may have been the target of a cyber attack that resulted in the shut-down of a voter registration website 100 minutes before the registration deadline on June 7.

MPs have not yet pointed the finger at any particular country, but notes that both China and Russia have histories of using cyber attacks for political gain and influence .

Because of the website shutdown, the deadline for registration to vote on the EU referendum had to be extended. The malfunctioning website may have resulted in tens of thousands of people not being able to properly register.

Previously it was believed that the website shutdown was the result of a high spike of 500,000 people trying to register on the last day.

MPs believes  that the attack may have been a distributed denial of service attack (DDOS) through the use of botnets—computer networks with infected software.

“The crash had indications of being a DDOS ‘attack’. We understand that this is very common and easy to do with botnets... The key indicants are timing and relative volume rate,” the committee’s report said.

As of now, there is no evidence the cyber attack had any actual effect on the referendum outcome. However, officials are now taking the possibility of cyber-attacks into consideration when holding future elections.

It is not very uncommon for Britain to be target in cyber attacks. Dozens of state-sponsored hackers try to infiltrate Britain’s computer networks every month in search of classified information, according to Ciaran Martin, GCHQ’s new security chief.  The National Cyber Security Centre has blocked an average of 34,550 potential attacks a day in the past few months.

According to the Report:

“The US and UK understanding of ‘cyber’ is predominantly technical and computer network-based. 

“For example, Russia and China use a cognitive approach based on understanding of mass psychology and of how to exploit individuals. 

“The implications of this different understanding of cyber-attack, as purely technical or as reaching beyond the digital to influence public opinion, for the interference in elections and referendums are clear. 

“PACAC is deeply concerned about these allegations about foreign interference.”

Originally Reported By The Guardian