A senior official at the Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency (CISA) said the agency is aware of a “handful” of distributed denial of service (DDoS) attacks that briefly impacted a number of state election websites on Election Day.
Although the agency was unable to provide specifics on the number of states affected, it did confirm that Mississippi state websites suffered outages following a cyberattack reportedly carried out by a Russian hacking group.
The official said that while it’s hard to attribute these attacks to a specific group or state actor, the agency has not seen any evidence suggesting that they were “part of a widespread coordinated campaign.”
The official added that it’s critical to know that low-level cyberattacks such as distributed denial of service attacks do not affect a voter’s ability to cast a ballot or have it counted, as these attacks only impact the website.
“Any potential DDoS attacks should not cast doubt on the security or resilience of the election,” the official said during a background call to reporters on Tuesday night.
DDoS attacks are typically used to disrupt and overwhelm a server with internet traffic, causing it to shut down.
The official added that not every cyberattack that targeted state election websites on Tuesday was successful, and those sites that were affected were quickly restored.
Illinois is another state that suffered from a cyberattack earlier Tuesday. The state’s Champaign County Clerk’s Office posted on Facebook that there were some issues with its network and computer server and that it believes they were caused by cyberattacks.
“These cyber-attacks are a strategic and coordinated effort to undermine and destabilize our democratic process,” the clerk’s office said.
“The intent is to discourage you from voting. Please do not fall victim to this,” it added.
The clerk’s office added that for the past month it was the target of repeated distributed denial of service attacks.
In an earlier call to reporters on Tuesday, the agency said while it has not identified any “specific or credible threats” that would disrupt election infrastructure, it remains vigilant of potential cyber threats, including DDoS attacks, website defacement and website outages.