NEWS

Cybercrime Could Imperil Electoral Process

By Matthew Harwood

Cybercriminals could have an unwanted impact on the 2008 presidential elections, reports Information Week.

In a forthcoming book, "Crimeware," researcher Oliver Friedrichs of the Symantec Corporation contributes a chapter exploring how cybercrime could effect the U.S. electoral system.

The risks cybercriminals pose are myriad, according to Friedrichs.

"These risks include among others the dissemination of misinformation, fraud, phishing, malicious code, and the invasion of privacy. Some of these attacks, including those involving the diversion of online campaign donations have the potential to threaten voters' faith in our electoral system."

And there are historical precedents that show this is an emerging and continuing trend.

In 2004, the John Kerry-John Edwards campaign experienced two phishing attacks. The first tried to solicit money in the candidates' names, while the second asked email recipients to call a 900 number for which they were charged $1.99.

In 2006, Joe Lieberman's senate campaign experienced a denial-of-service attack which led to the campaign Web site being taken offline which shut down the campaign's email system for some time.

Even now, cybercriminals are gearing up for the 2008 election season.

Symantec has identified 58 typo domains related to Hillary Clinton's official Web site, 52 related to Barak Obama's official Web site, 34 related to John Edwards' official Web site, 20 related to John McCain's official Web site, and 18 related to Mitt Romney's official Web site.

Why are typo domains such a problem?

Friedrich explains:

"For example, if I'm a phisher, I can set up a phishing site or a typo site and a victim coming to that site may believe he's contributing a donation to one particular candidate, but on the back end we can actually redirect that transaction to a completely different candidate. So essentially, the victim would be donating to their candidate's opponent. And that has the potential to really cause voters to lose faith in the online donation system as a whole."

The article reports that all 17 presidential candidates for 2008 accept online donations.

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