Foreign hackers, possibly from Russia or China, may have attacked the voter registration database for the Brexit referendum, a new report published Wednesday by a UK parliamentary committee states. The report suggests that registration was clogged by a cyber attack method that used so-called “botnets” to jump actual humans in line. The committee believes hackers may have broken into the registration site prior to the Brexit vote, causing it to crash and leaving a million potential voters on the outside looking in when last June’s vote took place.
In the report published on Wednesday, Parliament’s Public Administration and Constitutional Affairs Committee (PACAC) said the cause of the website’s failure has not yet been determined, but the stress and traffic that hackers may have put on the site could definitely be the culprit.
Coming on the heels of Russia’s attempt to swing the result of the 2016 U.S. election, the committee is taking the evidence very seriously as they continue their investigation, via Reuters:
“The US and UK understanding of ‘cyber’ is predominantly technical and computer-network based. For example, Russia and China use a cognitive approach based on an understanding of mass psychology and of how to exploit individuals,” the report said.
“The implications of this different understanding of cyber-attack, as purely technical or as reaching beyond the digital to influence public opinion, for the interference in elections and referendums are clear.”
At the time of the registration website crash, the UK government had speculated that the failure was due to the high-demand of people trying to jump on the vote train at the last minute. A reported 525,000 people were able to register on the day the site crashed, but possibly double that number missed the June 23 deadline that the referendum set. Now, it seems as if the website failure could be a result of it being compromised on purpose, or at the very least, a result of some hackers poking around in a place they shouldn’t have been.
Even as the PACAC investigates the cause of the website crash, they make it clear they “do not believe that any such interference had any material effect on the outcome of the EU referendum” but add they are “deeply concerned about these allegations about foreign interference.”