The Arizona Election Hack Story Is An Embarrassment To Everyone Involved

It’s an embarrassment to Ellen Nakashima and the Washington Post who ran the salacious and inaccurate headline “Russian hackers targeted Arizona election system”, and to every news organization that ran the same story including Financial Times (Geoff Dyer), the Washington Times (Douglas Ernst), and of course Yahoo (Michael Isikoff) who broke the story and published an FBI TLP:Amber alert that is need to know only / not to be shared with media.

It’s an embarrassment to Rich Barger at ThreatConnect along with their investors GroTech and SAP. Barger has been pumping the media with his Red Menace speculation at every opportunity, and in the case of this non-story, he’s basing it solely upon the fact that the attacker used a Russian-owned hosting service called King Servers, along with IP addresses from two Netherlands-based hosting companies. The Russian hackers who coordinated the attack against Georgian government websites in 2008 used Texas-based Softlayer Technologies as their hosting provider. According to Barger’s logic, the attackers must have been Texan, not Russian.

It’s an embarrassment to Thomas Rid who ran a series of tweets along with screenshots of the FBI’s TLP:AMBER alert announcing what a BIG story this was:

Notice that tweet was RT’d 242 times. A few hours later, he apparently realized his error (to his credit) and posted this:

If by “our overreaction” he means every other cybersecurity expert that jumped on that same non-story as eagerly as he did (such as the ones mentioned in this Politico article), then yes —you’re right, Thomas. That’s the real problem here.

There’s not a shred of evidence that that Russian government was behind the stealing of one password and one username of an election official in Gila county, Arizona. As Pwn All The Things pointed out in this series of tweets, lots of folks are going to look silly.

Even if you assume that Putin’s intelligence services were responsible, and their motive was for Donald Trump to win, why pick the State of Arizona? They’ve voted for a Republican for President in every Presidential election since 1952 except for 1996.

This is a ridiculous non-story that will have real consequences at a nation state level if journalists and irresponsible cybersecurity experts continue exploiting their Russophobia for personal gain.