Hall County, Georgia reported on October 7, 2020, that it was the victim of a ransomware attack that disrupted some of its systems, including email and telephone services in public buildings and the sheriff’s offices. Last week, the county indicated that in addition to telephone and email services, the ransomware attack also affected the county’s election administration system that verifies voters’ signatures on absentee ballots.
The county states that the ransomware attack (believed to be DoppelPaymer malware) will not affect voters’ ability to cast ballots, but it could slow down the county’s ability to process absentee ballots. According to public reports, there have been 13,703 absentee ballots cast in Hall County as of October 23. This incident is being reported as the first example of a ransomware attack affecting the 2020 election.
The ransomware attack will not completely thwart the ability of election clerks to count valid ballots. The County is able to use a statewide signature database in the event that it is not able to get the County signature matching system up and running, and as a last resort, they can go back to the old days and match signatures with voters’ registration cards.
Predictions are that hackers will be increasing the frequency and mode of attacks until election day, and that they believe that the closer the attack is to election day, the higher the chance is to score a payment.