Holiday shoppers need to be on high alert for email scams

Holiday shoppers need to be on high alert for spam-scams, a new report says. Malicious email disguised as delivery notifications or online purchase invoices are particularly effective during the holiday season when shoppers are active, says F-Secure, a Helsinki-based cybersecurity firm. "The kind of spam that criminals use doesn't seem so spammy to a lot … Continue reading “Holiday shoppers need to be on high alert for email scams”

Holiday shoppers need to be on high alert for spam-scams, a new report says.

Malicious email disguised as delivery notifications or online purchase invoices are particularly effective during the holiday season when shoppers are active, says F-Secure, a Helsinki-based cybersecurity firm.

"The kind of spam that criminals use doesn't seem so spammy to a lot of people this time of year,” said F-Secures Behavioral Science analyst Adam Sheehan in a statement.


“The failed delivery notification scam works because it plays on our trust of huge brands that we deal with on a nearly constant basis,” F-Secure said.

In a way, online criminals are also amateur behavioral scientists. “They know we’re inclined to click first before we ask questions,” the cybersecurity firm said.

Tests conducted by F-Secure that simulated Black Friday and Cyber Monday phishing emails saw 39 percent more people click on these than at other times of the year. Phishing is when an attacker pretends to be a reputable organization, company or person.

F-Secure's research cites spam campaigns — sent out to a massive number of email addresses — as the most common method for cybercriminals to distribute malware in 2018, accounting for 9 out of every 10 infection attempts throughout the year.

A whopping 69 percent of spam campaigns tried to trick users into visiting malicious websites and download a malware-laden file or other malware that results in an infection, F-Secure said. Malicious attachments were used in the remaining 31 percent, F-Secure added.

Other data points:

Banking malware is the most frequently seen malware delivered through spam.The majority of spam campaigns seen by F-Secure target users in the US, EU, Canada, and Japan.

Retailers trying to get better at spotting fraudsters

Shopper-targeted spam “heats up right before the holidays as cybercriminals count on consumers being in a hurry,” said Ryan Wilk, VP of Customer Success for Mastercard-owned NuData Security in a statement provided to Fox News.

Their goal is to steal consumer credit card or account information. “They [criminals] use this information to take over accounts or use the credit cards to steal goods and services online,” Wilk said.


But retailers are fighting back. Merchants are now becoming more aggressive at trying to separate real customers from fraudsters, Wilk added.

Using behavioral analysis and a technique known as passive biometrics – which analyzes customers patterns and habits – retailers can up their game, according to Wilk.

“Merchants…are able to determine if the legitimate user is accessing and transacting on the account or if it is a cybercriminal at work,” Wilk said.

So, what should consumers do? "Keep your system updated and run security software at all times. And train yourself to not click on links in emails—especially emails related to shipping," F-Secure said.

Fake Amazon packages and GPS helped cops catch package thieves

As the online shopping market continues to explode – it reached $121.5 billion, up 14 percent year-over-year in the third quarter according to the U.S. Department of Commerce – the biggest concern has been package theft, alarming shoppers, law enforcement and e-commerce companies alike.

Working in conjunction with Amazon, Jersey City police have taken the matter into their own hands to catch these so-called porch thieves, using technology.

The Jersey City police department installed doorbell cameras and planted fake packages with GPS tracking devices inside and waited for thieves to try and steal them. Much to no one's surprise, they did not have to wait long, with someone trying to take a package three minutes after it had been placed.


"We had a box out on the street for three minutes before it was taken," police Capt. James Crecco, who is overseeing the mission, told the Associated Press "We thought it was a mistake at first."

The suspect was caught, Crecco added. It is unclear if the suspect was subsequently charged with a crime.

According to a 2017 study, 11 million homeowners in the U.S. had packages stolen in the previous year. Approximately 53 percent of homeowners are concerned that packages left outside their homes can be stolen, and 74 percent of packages are stolen while homeowners are at work, adding to the problem.

Amazon — which is providing equipment free for the Jersey City program — declined to provide figures on how many packages are reported stolen or missing, as did UPS and FedEx.

"We absolutely report them to local law enforcement when we hear of them, and we encourage our customers to do the same," UPS spokesman Glenn Zaccara said.

Jersey City Police Chief Michael Kelly told The Associated Press that locations for cameras and boxes were selected using the city's own crime statistics and mapping of theft locations provided by Amazon.

"Most of the package thefts we've made arrests on revolve around (closed-circuit TV) or private surveillance cameras that give us a still image," Kelly said. "With the bait packages, some will be under video surveillance, and some will have GPS."

Several members of the Jersey City police department volunteered their dwellings to have the technology installed and the boxes placed. Jersey City Police Chief Michael Kelly told the AP that the program has been approved by a municipal prosecutor and hopes to expand the program, with Amazon's help.


The Jeff Bezos-led company has not yet responded to a request for comment from Fox News, but told the AP: "We appreciate the increased effort by local law enforcement to tackle package theft and remain committed to assisting however we can."

Similar programs have been tried in other cities including Albuquerque, New Mexico, and Hayward, California.

Amazon’s mixed privacy efforts

Amazon has worked hard to stave off package theft in a number of different ways. Earlier this year, the tech giant acquired Ring, which makes video doorbells and a number of other home security products, for $1 billion. Upon completion the deal, the press release made sure to note that the "two companies will work together to accelerate Ring’s mission to reduce crime in neighborhoods…"

Despite this, there has been an outcry against Amazon from several groups who say that the tech giant is infringing upon people's privacy with its technology.

On Wednesday, the ACLU wrote a blog post about one of Amazon's patents that would add face surveillance to homeowner's front doors. "As a former patent litigator, I've spent a lot of time reading patents," Jacob Snow, Technology & Civil Liberties Attorney, ACLU of Northern California wrote in the post. "It’s rare for patent applications to lay out, in such nightmarish detail, the world a company wants to bring about. Amazon is dreaming of a dangerous future, with its technology at the center of a massive decentralized surveillance network, running real-time facial recognition on members of the public using cameras installed in people’s doorbells.


The company has also received a significant amount of blowback for its Rekognition facial recognition technology, both from its employees and those who have bemoaned it could lead to mass surveillance in the not-too-distant future.

In July, the Rekognition facial surveillance technology wrongly tagged 28 members of Congress as police suspects, according to ACLU research.

Fox News' James Rogers, Christopher Carbone and the Associated Press contributed to this story. Follow Chris Ciaccia on Twitter @Chris_Ciaccia

‘Fortnite’s’ popularity has also made it a popular target for criminals

"Fortnite" has become so popular it is now a new playground for cyber-criminals, a new study has found. 

The game, which has an online audience of more than 200 million players and monthly revenues in the hundreds of millions of dollars, can also make the dubious claim of a burgeoning criminal ecosystem, according to research from cybersecurity firm Sixgill.

Fraudsters use stolen credit cards to purchase Fortnite-related goods and then unload those goods to unsuspecting buyers, receiving clean money in return.


Citing a forum post from April 2018, Sixgill highlights the lengthy description of how to exploit the game for “carding” or using multiple credit cards to buy Fortnite "V-bucks" – an in-game currency.

Then, several others chimed in, claiming they were able to make in-game purchases using stolen credit cards. 

The goal is to ultimately cash out. In some cases, bad actors make money by selling the "Fortnite accounts" on dark web forums and markets, Sixgill said in its report. For example, an individual on a well-known deep web hacking forum offering to sell their Fortnite account for $150. As a form of payment, the individual accepts PayPal, Bitcoin, and WebMoney.

“The vendor notes that the package comes complete with email and password login information, access to the original email associated with the account, and even payments receipts,” the firm said in the report.

“Once the threat actor is able to sell the account, they have effectively laundered the money,” Sixgill added.


The market for Fortnite goods is booming. In the past 60 days, the top 50 "Fortnite" items on eBay grossed over $250,000, according to Sixgill.

“Similarly, deep and dark web forums and markets offer countless possibilities for threat actors to monetize Fornite goods,” Sixgill said in its report.

Fortnite did not respond to a request for comment from Fox News.

Justice Department indicts Iranian nationals for extorting more than $6M from victims across North America

The Department of Justice has indicted two Iranian nationals for a three-year, multimillion-dollar cybercrime and extortion scheme which involved hacking into the computer networks of U.S. businesses and local municipalities.

An indictment unsealed in New Jersey on Wednesday alleges Mohammad Mehdi Shah Mansouri and Faramarz Shahi Savandi hijacked victims’ computer systems and shut them down until the victims paid a ransom. The indictment further says the defendants collected “more than $6 million in extortion payments and caused more than $30 million in losses.”

The six-count indictment alleges that, while in Iran, Savandi and Mansouri used a malware known as “SamSam Ransomware,” which is capable of forcibly encrypting data on the computers of victims. The indictment alleges that, beginning in December 2015, Savandi and Mansouri hacked into the computers of victims through security weaknesses.

Department of Justice officials say the two hackers do not have any official connection to the Iranian regime.

The victims numbered over 200 and included hospitals, municipalities and public institutions, according to the indictment, including: the City of Atlanta, Georgia; the City of Newark, New Jersey; the Port of San Diego, California; the Colorado Department of Transportation; the University of Calgary in Calgary, Alberta, Canada; and six health care-related entities: Hollywood Presbyterian Medical Center in Los Angeles, California; Kansas Heart Hospital in Wichita, Kansas; Laboratory Corporation of America Holdings, more commonly known as LabCorp, headquartered in Burlington, North Carolina; MedStar Health, headquartered in Columbia, Maryland; Nebraska Orthopedic Hospital now known as OrthoNebraska Hospital, in Omaha, Nebraska and Allscripts Healthcare Solutions Inc., headquartered in Chicago, Illinois.

Department of Justice officials refused to answer questions about whether those municipalities had used taxpayer money to pay ransom demands in order to regain control of their computer networks.

“They were, over time, able to perfect their art,” said Craig Carpentino, the U.S. Attorney for New Jersey. “They got better at this every day.”

While it’s clear that many of the victims did pay a ransom to regain control of their data, FBI Executive Assistant Director Amy Hess encourages victims not to pay.

“Clearly they have a lot at stake but we encourage them not to pay,” adding, “It encourages others,” to try the same kind of scheme

Savandi and Mansouri are charged with one count of conspiracy to commit wire fraud and one count of conspiracy to commit fraud. However, it is unclear if they will ever see the inside of an American courtroom since the U.S. has no extradition treaty with Iran.

Jake Gibson is a producer working at the Fox News Washington bureau who covers politics, law enforcement and intelligence issues.

Scary ransomware attacks famous North Carolina county

A major ransomware attack has forced the shutdown of a host of IT systems at Mecklenburg County, North Carolina.

Officials confirmed late Wednesday that they will not pay the ransom to unlock many of the county's applications that have been frozen since Monday.

“I am confident that our backup data is secure and we have the resources to fix this situation ourselves,” said County Manager Dena Diorio, in a statement. “It will take time, but with patience and hard work, all of our systems will be back up and running as soon as possible.”

Attackers gave a deadline of 1 p.m. ET Wednesday for payment of the ransom, according to news reports.


The hackers have demanded for the payment in bitcoin. One bitcoin is worth approximately $13,000.

Fox 46 reports that hackers froze a number of servers in the attack, preventing county official from accessing the information stored on them.

Systems affected by the shutdown span human resources, finance, parks and recreation, social services, deeds registration, assessor’s office, tax office and Land Use and Environmental Services Agency (LUESA).

In a statement released on Wednesday, the county explained that departments have implemented paper processes and other solutions to continue serving customers.


“There is no evidence at this time that personal, customer or employee information or data has been compromised,” it said. “The County is consulting with Federal, state and private stakeholders, including the FBI and Secret Service, while the County works to restore services,” it added.

Fox 46 reports that the county backs up all of its files, so information frozen by the attack will eventually be retrieved. “At this point in time, backups seem to be highly effective,” explained a Mecklenburg County official during Wednesday’s press conference.

The attack reportedly unfolded after a worker at Mecklenburg County clicked on an infected email.


A growing number of organizations and municipalities are being targeted in ransomware attacks. U.K. shipping giant Clarkson, for example, recently fell victim to a cyberattack, but vowed not to pay a ransom to the hackers.

A hacker recently deleted 30 million files in a ransomware attack on Sacramento Regional Transit. The hacker demanded $7,000 in bitcoins via SacRT’s Facebook page, which the agency did not pay, opting instead to back up the data.

Last year, a Los Angeles hospital paid a ransom of nearly $17,000 in bitcoins to hackers who infiltrated and disabled its computer network.

Uber recently came under fire for its reported payment of $100,000 to hackers.

Follow James Rogers on Twitter @jamesjrogers

Tech company using facial recognition technology to combat revenge porn

Darieth Chisolm was moving on from a year-long relationship when she got a chilling message from her ex last year.

“He said to me: ‘I will shoot you in your head and stab you in your heart if I don’t come back to the relationship. And if he wouldn’t do it he would find someone that would,” Chisolm, the founder of “50 Shades of Silence,” told Fox News.

His threats didn’t end there, she said. Chisolm, a former news anchor, became the latest victim of revenge porn. Within weeks, he began texting her lewd photos and videos he had taken of her while she was asleep. He threatened to make them public – and then followed through on his threats, creating a website full of naked images of her.

She grew frustrated because, for months, there was nothing she could do about it. A new app and search engine aims to help women like Chisolm by helping them find all their images on the web – and, in some instances, helping them pull them from the Internet.

“The quicker you can get the photos, the content, the harassing memes, whatever it is removed,” Chisolm said, “obviously, it can spread quickly so you want to move.”

“They (victims) need to be heard,” Hagege said. “They need to get the justice they deserve.” (Fox News)

The app, FacePinPoint, launched three months ago and claims to be the first of its kind. It uses facial recognition technology to track down a victim’s intimate photos and videos online.

Chisolm said the site, which she did not use but endorses, is designed to give a voice to victims of cyber harassment and other online crimes. And, she added, it helps victims trace content they may not know existed.

“With his app, at least with this facial recognition for some people, particularly those whose content has been imported on to a porn website, you’re able to use his app and hone in and hopefully track it down and possibly get it removed,” Chisolm said.

In Chisolm’s case, she said she reached out to, the webhosting company where the images were displayed, but the company said she had to get a court order to have them removed. Months later, she is still in court.

"If we can independently confirm a violation of our terms of service we will take action," representative Nick Fully told Fox News. "However, this is not often the case, such that we rely on due process afforded by the courts to dictate the appropriate course of action."

She now travels the world giving speeches and helping other victims of revenge porn through her site,

Many sites require the original photo in order to have it removed, making it difficult for victims to have them removed if they did not take or have access to the photo. FacePinPoint uses a profile picture that clearly shows the victims face to find the explicit content.

“FacePinPoint is the best insurance to make sure your content is not online and if it is online, then you’re going to find it before someone that you know is going to use that to jeopardize your reputation,” FacePinPoint Founder Lionel Hagege told Fox News.

Once the user's identity has been confirmed – using photos and metrics – the website uses facial recognition to search for inappropriate images.

‘When we find those naked pictures, we store the face,” Hagege said. “We store them in our database and after, as a user, you just have to visit”

Hagege says facial recognition is very accurate unless there is excessive weight gain or loss.

“We measure the distance between your eyes, your nose, your forehead, everything. So, basically we not looking for your face, we are looking for the measures of your face,” Hagege said. “…if it’s like a couple pounds it will work fine.”

Hagege says if there is a match, the customer will get results in their user interface and a link where they can locate the photos online.

But experts question how effective these types of technology will be given that many of these revenge porn photos are posted in subscription sites – which are difficult to track down.

Facebook is developing its own revenge porn service, which is now being tested in Australia. Google Image Search could also be used.

Archie Agarwal, CEO of ThreatModeler, a cybersecurity firm, said regardless, finding the images is easy – it's taking them down from the web that is difficult.

“In my opinion, this type of service may not be worth using because it is unclear how accurate it will be and in the end, it’s not finding the images that is the problem, it’s getting the sites to take them down,” Agarwal said.

FacePinPoint does provide a network of pro-bono lawyers and psychologists, but only in five states. They are hoping to extend this service to the one in 25 Americans who are victims of revenge porn across the US by the end of 2018.

“They need to be heard,” Hagege said. “They need to get the justice they deserve.”

Terace Garnier is a Fox News multimedia reporter based in Columbia, South Carolina. Follow her on twitter: @TeraceGarnier

35 million voter records up for sale on the dark web, report says

Dark web peddlers are busy this election season.

A massive unauthorized disclosure of voter records is estimated to exceed 35 million across 19 states, according to Anomali Labs and Intel 471, firms that provide cyber threat services and intelligence.

The voter records, which include personal information and voting histories, are being peddled on the dark web in hacker forums, according to a blog post from Anomali this week.

“I want to make clear that the information posted is publicly available information. We are not suggesting any states have been hacked,” Dan Barahona, Chief Marketing Officer at Anomali, told Fox News.


“Considering the information is fairly easily obtained, there's no reason to believe a malicious actor would bother with trying to hack into an election database,” he said.

Rather, this is a targeted campaign by bad actors who are redistributing legitimately obtained voter data on a cybercrime forum, Anomali said in the post.

“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,” according to Anomali.

Voter records include full name, phone numbers, physical addresses, voting history, and other unspecified voting data. Voter list prices range from $150 to $12,500 depending on the state and depending on the number of voter records per database listing and/or other factors, Anomali said.


“Once purchased, the vendor claims to provide customers with regular updates at the start of each week,” the blog post added.


What’s not clear is the motivation for the illicit activity.

“For the seller it may simply be an easy way to try to profit from aggregating voter registration rolls,” Anomali’s Barahona said.

Or the voter data could be combined with other breached data, such as social security numbers, as part of an identity theft scheme, Barahona said.


And it could also be theoretically used to alter election outcomes. “Someone attempting to impact elections could use this information to register on behalf of other voters, request mail-in ballots, and vote early as those voters, for example,” he said.

Barahona pointed to a recent case where four women were indicted in Texas. The four are members of an organized voter fraud ring and were paid to target elderly voters in a scheme to generate large numbers of mail ballots, and then harvest those ballots for specific candidates in 2016, according to a statement from the Texas Attorney General’s office.

“The voting data itself presents a more interesting and concerning possibility,” Tim Erlin, VP, product management and strategy at Tripwire, a cybersecurity firm, told Fox News.

“We know that a variety of disinformation campaigns have been used to influence elections,” he said. “Having accurate voting records, along with personal data, could allow for more targeted and effective influence operations.”

Foreign hackers have US election networks in their crosshairs, report says

Foreign hackers are reportedly increasing their efforts to target America’s election infrastructure ahead of Tuesday’s midterms.

Citing Department of Homeland Security election threat reports, the Boston Globe reports that hackers have targeted voter registration databases, election officials and networks across the U.S.

The incidents, which range from injections of malicious code to bogus requests for voter registration forms, have not been publicly disclosed until now, according to the Boston Globe.


Documents show that more than 160 reports of suspected election meddling have been recorded by U.S. government agencies since Aug. 1, the report says, and the pace of suspicious activity has been increasing. Most of the recent incidents are described as “foreign-based.”

The Department of Homeland Security told Fox News that election officials are sharing more data with the Department about the cyber attacks targeting their systems. “As a result of improved relationships between DHS and state and local election officials, our election partners regularly share network activity they see with DHS,” said DHS spokesman Scott McConnell, in a statement emailed to Fox News. “This sharing is helping us build a national-level understanding of the cybersecurity threats facing our nation’s election infrastructure.”

However, McConnell said that this should not be seen as a spike in cyber attacks. “This does not mean that our partners are seeing an increase in cyber threats to their networks,” he said. “DHS is committed to sharing timely and actionable information, like what is outlined in the intelligence report, with our elections partners.”


McConnell also noted that the attacks are not unique to election infrastructure. “As we have consistently said, while we are aware of cyber actors targeting election infrastructure, the tactics used in these activities are common and not unique to election systems,” he explained. “To be clear, we have not attributed any of this activity to a nation-state, nor do we have any reason to believe it to be part of a broader campaign. DHS and our state and local election partners are aware of the ongoing threats to election infrastructure and we continue to work every day to secure and increase the resilience of our nation’s elections.”

In the wake of alleged Russian meddling in the 2016 U.S. presidential election, Trump administration officials have warned that Russia poses a sustained threat to other U.S. elections. Russia has repeatedly denied the allegations of election meddling. Earlier this year, 13 Russian nationals and three companies were indicted for interfering with the 2016 presidential election after Special Counsel Robert Mueller brought a case against them, detailing a sophisticated plot to wage “information warfare” against the U.S.


A recent survey of more than 1,000 people in the U.S. by IT company Unisys reported that 19 percent of Americans “will not vote” or “have a high likelihood” of not voting in the midterms, citing concerns about outside actors compromising voting systems.

Fox News’ Brooke Singman and Chris Ciaccia contributed to this article. Follow James Rogers on Twitter @jamesjrogers

Midterms cyber fear: One in five Americans may not vote over security worries, survey says

Nearly one in five Americans will not vote or are highly unlikely to vote in Tuesday’s midterm elections over concerns about the integrity of U.S. voting systems, according to new research.

Technology company Unisys surveyed more than 1,000 people in the U.S. on a number of security issues during August and September 2018. Some 19 percent of respondents said they “will not vote” or “have a high likelihood” of not voting in the midterm elections, citing concerns over “outside actors” compromising voting systems.

More than 13,000 people in 13 countries took part in the 2018 Unisys Security Index. In the U.S., 86 percent of respondents expressed concern about voting systems being compromised by outsiders.


Unisys also cited data from FairVote, which says that only about 40 percent of the voting eligible population vote in midterm elections, compared to about 60 percent in presidential election years. Security concerns could, therefore, push the 40 percent number even lower, particularly among younger voters, according to Unisys.

Unisys Chief Trust Officer Tom Patterson told Fox News that resiliency and transparency are key to voter confidence. “Resilience in voting is accomplished by updating equipment and layering on systems like independent testing, paper trails, electronic auditing, enhanced security monitoring, and clear reporting of issues to a group empowered to quickly and fairly address them,” he explained via email. “Transparency is accomplished by clearly communicating these steps to the voting public, in a trusted and non-partisan fashion. By working together at the state and Federal levels toward greater resilience, it’s possible to restore voter confidence.”

The security expert believes that, at the federal level, great strides have been made around voting security since the last general election. The issue has been categorized as a “critical infrastructure” sector making it eligible for greater security assistance from groups like the Department of Homeland Security’s National Protection and Programs Directorate and the FBI, he explained.


“Equally important has been the strong cooperation at the state and local levels on addressing this key issue, with help from the private sector and proven security experts, providing education, testing, training, information sharing, and enhanced cyber intelligence capabilities,” Patterson added. “As these groups continue to work together continued progress will be made, and as that progress is transparently shared with the voting public, confidence can be restored.”

Nonetheless, voting security remains firmly in the spotlight.

Citing DHS election threat reports, the Boston Globe reported this week that foreign hackers have targeted voter registration databases, election officials and networks across the U.S.

Documents show that more than 160 reports of suspected election meddling have been recorded by U.S. government agencies since Aug. 1, the report says, and the pace of suspicious activity has been increasing. Most of the recent incidents are described as “foreign-based.”

The Department of Homeland Security told Fox News that election officials are sharing more data with the Department about the cyber attacks targeting their systems, which should not be seen as a spike in attacks.

A Department of Homeland Security spokesman also noted that the attacks are not unique to election infrastructure. “As we have consistently said, while we are aware of cyber actors targeting election infrastructure, the tactics used in these activities are common and not unique to election systems,” he explained. “To be clear, we have not attributed any of this activity to a nation-state, nor do we have any reason to believe it to be part of a broader campaign.

Follow James Rogers on Twitter @jamesjrogers

Voting machines can be hacked in two minutes, expert warns

How long does it take to hack an election?

About two minutes, according to a security expert.

Recently, at the DEF CON hacker conference in Las Vegas, Rachel Tobac, CEO of SocialProof Security demonstrated how a voting machine used in 18 states could be compromised in two minutes. She unplugged the card reader and booted up into the admin mode.

With access to the admin mode, hackers could easily install a different operating system or compromise the data for a preferred outcome in the midterm elections.


Last year at the same conference, experts warned that the machines could be hacked in 24 hours.

Fox News has reached out to the U.S. Election Assistance Commission with a request for comment on this story.

The security of U.S. election systems is firmly in the spotlight.

The main issue is that criminals and foreign operatives intent on disrupting the midterms have worked harder, faster, and with more intent than those trying to fend off the attacks. Hackers rely on automated processes — apps, development tools and online databases on services like GitHub or Pastebin — that make it easy to hack the machines used for tallying votes.


“Vulnerabilities on voting systems sometimes go unpatched for a long period of time and that’s the window of opportunity for an attacker to act and compromise them,” says Mounir Hahad, the head of the Juniper Threat Labs at Juniper Networks, speaking to Fox News.

“There is far greater interest in voting machine exploitation [than in 2016],” Brian Varner, a special projects researcher for cyber security services at Symantec, tells Fox News.

Varner says the hacks are not all that complicated. Modern voting machines are now more vulnerable than before, he says. Many have a USB port, so hackers could attach a wireless device to connect to them remotely. The operating system is not that secure, either. Some are stored on a removable chip. A hacker could remove the chip, change the operating system, then reinstall the chip long before the voting machine is ever used.

Another concern has to do with causing disruption. Varner says hackers wouldn't need to bother with voting machines at all. They could break into the voter registration records in each state, then obtain cell phone numbers for voters. They could send an “official” text message telling voters that the polls are now closed or the polling location has changed.


“If the goal is to delegitimize an election, a cyber threat actor can do this in four ways: change cast ballots, insert fake votes, eliminate legitimate votes or alter the tally of votes,” says Hahad. “If the goal is to just sow discord and confusion, they can also alter the systems used to report results, such as the secretary of state election results websites.”

One expert even warned that the damage has already been done.

It’s one thing to hack voting machines or the voter record but says Joseph Carson, chief security scientist at Thycotic, hacking the voter is even more devious.

“Cybercriminals have already targeted the midterm elections successfully months and even years ago by causing disruption at the core of the United States of America,” he says. “Creating a divide in the population and the continuous flow of propaganda into the U.S. citizens to make Americans fear their neighbors is right at the core of hacking of the elections. Rather than change the results of the voting systems, you control the mind of the voter.”