DDoS attack aimed at Mexican opposition presidential candidate website during debate

News by Teri Robinson

A distributed denial of service (DDoS) attack on the website opposing a Mexican presidential candidate Tuesday during a debate, renewed fears that elections around the globe are vulnerable.

A distributed denial of service (DDoS) attack on the website opposing a Mexican presidential candidate Tuesday during a debate, renewed fears that elections around the globe are vulnerable.

The attack, in which most of the traffic came from Russia and China, was aimed at the National Action Party (PAN) site, which has been critical of Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador (AMLO), the front runner in the presidential election slated for 1 July, according to PAN.

"On this website, 185,000 visits were registered within 15 minutes, with the attacks coming mainly from Russia and China," PAN said in a statement.

PAN Secretary Damian Zepeda, referring to Lopez Obrador, "The AMLO bots have been activated to try to crash the page debate2018.mx where there are proofs of contracts worth millions given to AMLO's friend.”

Lopez Obrador's camp has denied any involvement in the incident, Reuters reported. 

The attack occurred after PAN's candidate Ricardo Anaya held up a sign with the website's url during the debate.

“In the case of DDOS attacks, point of origin for the attack traffic is of little value in determining the sponsors of attacks, as the attacks emanate from systems that have been opportunistically compromised and forced to disrupt targeted sites,” said John Hultquist, director of intelligence analysis at FireEye. “Historically, politically motivated DDOS attacks have been carried out through criminal intermediaries who offer services in the underground.”

Hultquist explained that those “services have been used to target political websites in the Caribbean as well as Asia and Europe.”

Countries around the globe are bracing for attacks against their election systems. In court filings Tuesday requesting to safeguard information about his Russian probe from one indicted company, Concord Management and Consulting LLC, Special Counsel Robert Mueller said that foreign entities and persons continue to "engage in interference operations like those charged in the present indictment."

Mueller noted, according to CNBC, that “the substance of the government's evidence identifies uncharged individuals and entities that the government believes are continuing to engage in interference operations like those charged in the present indictment.” 

The US Election Assistance Commission has set aside more than US$ 380 million (£286 million) to fund security measures, while on the local level events like New York State's Board of Elections in conjunction with the Department of Homeland Security are holding drills throughout the state to help prevent any cyber-intrusion during the electoral process. SC Media recently asked security pros for their advice (found here) on keeping elections safe.

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