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Ohio searches for state-site attacker
Published: 2008-10-21

Ohio Secretary of State Jennifer Brunner hardened her official Web site this week and called in the Ohio State Highway Patrol to begin an investigation after information-technology workers detected at least one attack on the site on Monday.

The Secretary of State did not elaborate on the attacks or give details of how the site, which also hosts election information for the state of Ohio, was impacted. Ohio is a key battleground state in the coming U.S. presidential election, and Brunner -- a Democrat -- has already had to defend her policies against partisan attacks in front of the State Supreme Court and the U.S. Supreme Court.

"Our focus is and has always been to protect the vote of every eligible Ohio voter from any kind of fraud, be it voter registration fraud, illegal voting or vote suppression," Brunner said in a statement on Monday. "This action (hardening the site) has been taken to detect and prosecute any illegal breach of our voting infrastructure to maintain voter confidence."

Election fraud has become a major issue ever since a close race in Florida -- replete with hanging chads and a U.S. Supreme Court decision -- resulted in George W. Bush being elected president in 2000. Ohio featured prominently in the 2004 election, which saw President Bush beat Democratic challenger John Kerry by a narrow margin, albeit a larger one than his razor-thin defeat of Al Gore in 2000. Computer scientist continue to worry that electronic voting machines have not been properly vetted for security issues and that states are not required to perform software-independent audits of elections.

On Tuesday, IT administrators restored some site functionality after implementing additional, unspecified, security measures.

"Our Information Technology department worked through the night to establish the needed security measures to make certain that no information on the website could be compromised," Brunner said in a statement sent to SecurityFocus on Tuesday.

Online attackers have increasingly aimed their online activities at political targets. Last month, a politically motivated attacker used online research and educated guessing to reset the password on Alaskan Governor and vice presidential candidate Sarah Palin's Yahoo! e-mail account and leaked several e-mail messages to the Internet. David Kernell, the 20-year-old son of a Democratic state senator from Tennessee, has been indicted for the attacks.

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Posted by: Robert Lemos
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