Mississippi was the target of a sustained cyber attack on election day

Published: Nov. 9, 2022 at 7:32 PM CST
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JACKSON, Miss. (WLBT) - Hackers made Mississippi one of their election-day targets. But officials say it didn’t impact votes.

Still, it kept many of you from accessing polling place information on one of the state websites.

You’d expect the Secretary of State’s website to be a popular online destination on election day. But Tuesday afternoon, Secretary Michael Watson was notified that it was far from normal.

“We started seeing a spike in traffic hitting our website, and basically what it’s called a DDoS attack,” said Watson. “It basically takes your website down, and we saw integrated servers back and forth, we would get back up, then they would check again and push it back down.”

But you should know, this isn’t the first time something like this has happened.

“We saw this attack happen or a form of it happened a couple of weeks back, which was a great thing because we were prepared doubly so this time,” explained Watson. “That was some out-of-country traffic. This time, what we’re being told is the traffic was spoofed, which means they cover their tracks basically. We did see some information out there a pro-Russia group claims credit for doing so I want to make sure that we get all the facts before we say anything...who did what. But again, it’s important to have trusted information and we want to make sure you get the facts before we say anything else.”

Watson admits there are hacking attempts on the system daily but when asked about the timing of this latest one...

“There’s some different thoughts out there,” he noted. “Maybe the one that happened a few weeks ago was to test our vulnerability. ‘Is this something that we can do?’ And then, hey, by the way, let’s get ready to go on election day. I’m not so sure that that’s the case. But I do know again that it was Election Day. So it certainly looks suspicious that it was aimed at our election system here in Mississippi.”

Bottom line is that Watson says while it kept some from accessing polling place info, your personal information wasn’t compromised.

“That was the public-facing side, nothing behind the public-facing side was impacted,” Watson added. “The election was safe.”

We were told other state websites were impacted and requested information from the Mississippi Department of Information Technology Services.

“We have received numerous inquiries regarding the intermittent website outages across the state network yesterday,” said Tommy Goodwin, Chief Administrative Officer for the Mississippi Department of Information Technology Services. “These outages were the result of an increase in DDoS activity. We worked diligently to incorporate additional mechanisms to restore access to ensure that our citizens could retrieve the information available on our websites. Due to the sensitive and critical nature of these mitigations, we continue to cooperate with our federal partners at Homeland Security and CISA to share intelligence related to this activity.”

The Secretary of State has also added this statement to his website.

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