San Diego County officials are investigating an attempted breach of the county's website on Tuesday night.
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County officials said at about 8:13 p.m. on election night, the county's IT system noticed an unusual surge in traffic to the county's website, sdcounty.ca.gov, coming from a single, offshore IP address. The number of hits on the website went from about 20,000 to 1.2 million at that time, according to county officials.
At 8:15 p.m., officials said outside access to the county's website was denied after the county's firewall determined the increase in traffic to be suspicious. County officials said its internal security system "worked properly by detecting the malicious traffic and then blocking any additional threats."
County spokesman Michael Workman told 10News, "It was deliberate."
County officials said the attempted intrusion and subsequent security measures prevented those interested in election results from accessing the Registrar of Voters website, sdvote.com.
The websites returned to normal at 9:56 p.m., and county officials said the incident did not affect ballot counting or other election-related processes.
"There was absolutely no breach of information, no election data compromised," said Workman.
Hewlett Packard, the IT services provider for the county, determined the incident to be a denial-of-service attack. A denial-of-service is a flood of data directed at a website that causes servers to shut down. In recent years, there have been numerous cases aimed at government and retail websites.
In this case, however, experts believe a powerful automated system was used, possibly for a political statement.
"It could all mean the goal is to bring down the website because it's an election, and that brings attention to you. He also could have been trying to increase his reputation in the hacker world," said Dr. Murray Jennex, a computer science professor at San Diego State University.
Hewlett Packard also ruled out any hardware or software issues, and there was plenty of capacity for the number of users who tried to use sdvote.com, according to the county.
It was unknown if the attack was meant to disrupt the election itself, according to the county.
County officials said they were working with a security team and Hewlett Packard to find who or what was responsible for the attack, and reviewing ways to keep such an event from taking down the site in the future.
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