A scene from the Voter Hacking room at DEFCON 2018, where hackers were able to compromise voting machine data in less than 20 minutes.

A scene from the Voter Hacking room at DEFCON 2018, where hackers were able to compromise voting machine data in less than 20 minutes. Patrick Tucker/Defense One

DHS Downplays Report That Data Thieves Are Selling Millions of Voters’ Data

But your personal data from voting rolls is more public than you likely realize.

Various data on up to 35 million U.S. voters as many as 19 states is for sale online, according to a new report from a pair of cyber security research firms. But the Department of Homeland Security says that’s nothing new: much of the data is either public or available for purchase from state and local governments.

An Oct. 15 report from cybersecurity research firms Anomali Labs and Intel471 makes a big claim: “To our knowledge this represents the first reference on the criminal underground of actors selling or distributing lists of 2018 voter registration data, including US voters’ personally identifiable information and voting history.”

It says that on Oct. 5, voter registration records for Texas, Georgia, and at least 17 more states were offered for sale on the popular dark web hacking forum “Raid Forums” by a  “known illicit vendor”: a figure named "Downloading,” a likely alias for an administrator on the forum. The data purportedly includes names, addresses, voting history, and “other data” according to the statement. The price? Cheap, starting at $150 for some states and reaching as high as $12,500.

“DHS is aware of the report. It is important to note that much of information purportedly being sold is available in most states either publicly or commercially,” a DHS spokesman said in an email  “It does not appear that this data is indicative of a successful breach of state or local election infrastructure.”

It’s a familiar line from DHS: your voter registration data is more open than you realize, and that’s not necessarily a threat to election security.

“It’s actually fairly easy to get [voter registration] data. In most states, you can buy the data. It’s not that we’re worried about losing the data. What we are worried about is manipulation of the data,” Homeland Security Undersecretary Jeanette Manfra told a crowd at the DEFCON cybersecurity conference in Las Vegas, Nevada, in August.

Roberto Sánchez, a representative from Anomali Labs, acknowledged that the lists on offer from Downloading “were the same or nearly equivalent to the prices of the public database lists.”  But that doesn’t mean the use of the data was authorized. “The majority of states mention the voter lists can be purchased for political activities only,” said Sánchez. “The voter data lists that they are offering are available to authorized parties for a fee, so they won’t necessarily be available to the public at large as well as free of charge.”

It’s another example of how easy it is for personal data to wind up for sale by actors who may wish to target individuals with messaging or influence operations. But that’s different from a threat against actual voting infrastructure or one that could meaningfully change votes.

In August, Manfra addressed a wide variety of threats to U.S. voting systems and processes, as, just down the hall at Caesar’s Palace, teenagers hacked voting machines to demonstrate how easy it was to break in and manipulate data. Bottom line: she said that while the security of individual voting machines leaves much to be desired, the chances of individual attackers physically manipulating enough of them to change a vote outcome was low to zero. The fact that so many states and jurisdictions have different processes and systems makes a nation-wide vote manipulation effort much harder. And while the widespread purging of voters from rolls does represent a concern, she said, it’s one of public perception, not vote outcome.

If attackers were able to purge voter information from rolls, the result would be confusion and fear at the appearance of a breakdown in the voting system. It would create “discord and … some lack of confidence. It would be something along the lines of creating longer lines,” she said. But even then, the hack would not affect the vote directly, so long as enough people understood that they could still use a provisional ballot, she said.

“Every jurisdiction in this country is required to have a provisional ballot so even if there is some confusion about whether you are allowed to vote, you’re still allowed to cast a provisional ballot and then the administrators will go back and determine if that was appropriate,” Manfra said.

Manfra said that the threat against U.S. election systems, including roll purging by hackers, was lower than it was during the last presidential election. “We aren’t seeing the targeting that we did see in 2016,” she said.

In their statement on Monday, DHS said that “As part of our ongoing partnership with state and local election officials to improve election resilience, we are engaged with all 50 states and have the ability able to rapidly communicate with any election jurisdiction to provide alerts or incident response. DHS also offers assistance to political entities, including individual campaigns, and has engaged with both national campaign committees, offering training and services.”

X
This website uses cookies to enhance user experience and to analyze performance and traffic on our website. We also share information about your use of our site with our social media, advertising and analytics partners. Learn More / Do Not Sell My Personal Information
Accept Cookies
X
Cookie Preferences Cookie List

Do Not Sell My Personal Information

When you visit our website, we store cookies on your browser to collect information. The information collected might relate to you, your preferences or your device, and is mostly used to make the site work as you expect it to and to provide a more personalized web experience. However, you can choose not to allow certain types of cookies, which may impact your experience of the site and the services we are able to offer. Click on the different category headings to find out more and change our default settings according to your preference. You cannot opt-out of our First Party Strictly Necessary Cookies as they are deployed in order to ensure the proper functioning of our website (such as prompting the cookie banner and remembering your settings, to log into your account, to redirect you when you log out, etc.). For more information about the First and Third Party Cookies used please follow this link.

Allow All Cookies

Manage Consent Preferences

Strictly Necessary Cookies - Always Active

We do not allow you to opt-out of our certain cookies, as they are necessary to ensure the proper functioning of our website (such as prompting our cookie banner and remembering your privacy choices) and/or to monitor site performance. These cookies are not used in a way that constitutes a “sale” of your data under the CCPA. You can set your browser to block or alert you about these cookies, but some parts of the site will not work as intended if you do so. You can usually find these settings in the Options or Preferences menu of your browser. Visit www.allaboutcookies.org to learn more.

Sale of Personal Data, Targeting & Social Media Cookies

Under the California Consumer Privacy Act, you have the right to opt-out of the sale of your personal information to third parties. These cookies collect information for analytics and to personalize your experience with targeted ads. You may exercise your right to opt out of the sale of personal information by using this toggle switch. If you opt out we will not be able to offer you personalised ads and will not hand over your personal information to any third parties. Additionally, you may contact our legal department for further clarification about your rights as a California consumer by using this Exercise My Rights link

If you have enabled privacy controls on your browser (such as a plugin), we have to take that as a valid request to opt-out. Therefore we would not be able to track your activity through the web. This may affect our ability to personalize ads according to your preferences.

Targeting cookies may be set through our site by our advertising partners. They may be used by those companies to build a profile of your interests and show you relevant adverts on other sites. They do not store directly personal information, but are based on uniquely identifying your browser and internet device. If you do not allow these cookies, you will experience less targeted advertising.

Social media cookies are set by a range of social media services that we have added to the site to enable you to share our content with your friends and networks. They are capable of tracking your browser across other sites and building up a profile of your interests. This may impact the content and messages you see on other websites you visit. If you do not allow these cookies you may not be able to use or see these sharing tools.

If you want to opt out of all of our lead reports and lists, please submit a privacy request at our Do Not Sell page.

Save Settings
Cookie Preferences Cookie List

Cookie List

A cookie is a small piece of data (text file) that a website – when visited by a user – asks your browser to store on your device in order to remember information about you, such as your language preference or login information. Those cookies are set by us and called first-party cookies. We also use third-party cookies – which are cookies from a domain different than the domain of the website you are visiting – for our advertising and marketing efforts. More specifically, we use cookies and other tracking technologies for the following purposes:

Strictly Necessary Cookies

We do not allow you to opt-out of our certain cookies, as they are necessary to ensure the proper functioning of our website (such as prompting our cookie banner and remembering your privacy choices) and/or to monitor site performance. These cookies are not used in a way that constitutes a “sale” of your data under the CCPA. You can set your browser to block or alert you about these cookies, but some parts of the site will not work as intended if you do so. You can usually find these settings in the Options or Preferences menu of your browser. Visit www.allaboutcookies.org to learn more.

Functional Cookies

We do not allow you to opt-out of our certain cookies, as they are necessary to ensure the proper functioning of our website (such as prompting our cookie banner and remembering your privacy choices) and/or to monitor site performance. These cookies are not used in a way that constitutes a “sale” of your data under the CCPA. You can set your browser to block or alert you about these cookies, but some parts of the site will not work as intended if you do so. You can usually find these settings in the Options or Preferences menu of your browser. Visit www.allaboutcookies.org to learn more.

Performance Cookies

We do not allow you to opt-out of our certain cookies, as they are necessary to ensure the proper functioning of our website (such as prompting our cookie banner and remembering your privacy choices) and/or to monitor site performance. These cookies are not used in a way that constitutes a “sale” of your data under the CCPA. You can set your browser to block or alert you about these cookies, but some parts of the site will not work as intended if you do so. You can usually find these settings in the Options or Preferences menu of your browser. Visit www.allaboutcookies.org to learn more.

Sale of Personal Data

We also use cookies to personalize your experience on our websites, including by determining the most relevant content and advertisements to show you, and to monitor site traffic and performance, so that we may improve our websites and your experience. You may opt out of our use of such cookies (and the associated “sale” of your Personal Information) by using this toggle switch. You will still see some advertising, regardless of your selection. Because we do not track you across different devices, browsers and GEMG properties, your selection will take effect only on this browser, this device and this website.

Social Media Cookies

We also use cookies to personalize your experience on our websites, including by determining the most relevant content and advertisements to show you, and to monitor site traffic and performance, so that we may improve our websites and your experience. You may opt out of our use of such cookies (and the associated “sale” of your Personal Information) by using this toggle switch. You will still see some advertising, regardless of your selection. Because we do not track you across different devices, browsers and GEMG properties, your selection will take effect only on this browser, this device and this website.

Targeting Cookies

We also use cookies to personalize your experience on our websites, including by determining the most relevant content and advertisements to show you, and to monitor site traffic and performance, so that we may improve our websites and your experience. You may opt out of our use of such cookies (and the associated “sale” of your Personal Information) by using this toggle switch. You will still see some advertising, regardless of your selection. Because we do not track you across different devices, browsers and GEMG properties, your selection will take effect only on this browser, this device and this website.