Hackers Take Down Mississippi Secretary of State Site In Election Day Attack After Russian Threat

a photo of Michael Watson
Mississippi Secretary of State Michael Watson’s office confirmed on Tuesday, Nov. 8, 2022, that an Election Day cyber attack took down the Secretary of State’s website, including its polling place locator tool. Photo by Ashton Pittman

The Mississippi Secretary of State’s website went down for several hours on Tuesday after succumbing to an Election Day cyber attack. NBC News’ Kevin Collier reported that “a Russian-speaking hacker group” used a denial of service attack to flood the state websites with traffic that overwhelmed its servers, according to a senior CISA official.

In a statement Tuesday, the Mississippi Department of Information Technology Services and the Secretary of State confirmed that an “abnormally large increase in traffic volume due to DDoS activity caused the public facing side of our websites to be periodically inaccessible” during the afternoon.

“We want to be extremely clear and reassure Mississippians our election system is secure and has not been compromised,” the statement said.

While the hackers could not change votes, their actions did prevent residents from accessing voting information, including the Secretary of State’s polling place locator tool. The website went down around 1 p.m. and remained inaccessible for several hours as voters went to the polls.

In a statement after this story first published on Wednesday, Nov. 9, 2022, Mississippi Secretary of State Michael Watson said that his office does “not have confirmation as to where the DDoS activity originated and more evidence would be required to attribute to any person or group.” The statement does not mention a Russian hacker group.

Yesterday, though, Watson seemed to acknowledge his belief that Russia was behind the attack when he tweeted, “MS 1, Russia 0.”

On Election Day, a Russian hacker group claimed in a telegram post that its goal in target Mississippi’s Secretary of State’s website was to “hit the section that is directly related to the elections,” USA Today reported. The outlet also reported that the group said it would attack the Democratic National Committee’s website “as a gift to the Republicans for the elections.”

USA Today reported Telegram messages on Monday in which wealthy Russian businessman Yevgeny Prigozhin, an ally of Russian President Vladimir Putin, wrote that the Kremlin has interfered in U.S. elections in the past.

“We interfered, we interfere and we will interfere,” he wrote.

This story was updated to add comments from Secretary of State Michael Watson.

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