COLUMBIA, S.C. (WJBF)- The South Carolina Election Commission disclosed in a post-election report to the S.C. state House Oversight Committee that its firewalls blocked nearly 150,000 attempts to access South Carolina’s voter registration database on election day 2016.
The CIA, NSA, and FBI all conclude that hackers working on behalf of Russia sought to undermine our election system in 2016. Members of the intelligence and law enforcement community testified that one of their goals was undercutting Americans’ trust in our democratic institutions.
In Illinois, hackers accessed about 90,000 voter registration records before the election.
South Carolina faced similar attempts but was able to block them, according to the state election commission.
“When you take a look at the 150,000 as it was defined, which were blocked attempts to get in, that could be that there is somebody out there that was actually trying to say, ‘I’m trying to get to SC Elections,” said Tom Scott, the executive director of SC Cyber, a statewide initiative to protect critical infrastructure from cyber attacks. “It could be that somebody out there has created a bot net.”
Bot net is short for “robot network”– that’s when a hacker takes over other people’s computers and uses them to attack someone. Scott says those attempts probably came from a combination of bots and individuals.
A rep from the state election commission tells us these attempts were not hacks per se, rather just attempts to access the database.
Scott says he dosen’t see the incentive for a nation-state to access voter registration data. He says he dosen’t believe Russia is to blame. He also says the attempts may just amount to a virtual game of ding-dong-ditch.
Thankfully, South Carolina made sure security was up to par before the election.
In September, the Department of Homeland Security ran a “cyber-hygiene scan” for South Carolina. They found 55 vulnerabilities, the cyber equivalent of unlocked doors. Two of them were classified as critical– the most severe. However, they corrected the problems before election day.
At the local level, the South Carolina National Guarded provided counties with assessments, scans, and recommendations about their elections processes. NewsChannel 6 reached out to the counties in our viewing area about what they found.
Reps from AIken and Edgefield Counties tell us they took the reommendations and all reasonable measure to protect the elections process. In Barnwell County, a rep says they had three vulnerabilities– none of them critical– and the they addressed all three.
Elections officials say they could not elaborate further on the cyber assessments, citing security concerns.
We did not hear back from elections officials in Allendale, Bamberg, McCormick, and Saluda Counties.