EU referendum may have been influenced by hackers

In April last year, Britain made the historic decision to leave the European Union. A website allowing people to register for the referendum deciding whether the UK remained a member of the EU bloc collapsed just hours before the vote, prompting speculation it was hacked to influence the result.

A report from the Public Administration and Constitutional Affairs select committee said there were “indications” the website had been targeted by a botnet causing a DDoS (Distributed Denial of Service) attack which brought it offline.

We do not rule out the possibility that there was foreign interference in the EU referendum

The situation has familiarities with a US investigation focusing on whether its presidential elections were influenced by foreign cyber hacking. US intelligence accuses state-linked Russian hackers.

DDoS attacks have increased in prevalence and severity in recent years due to botnets like Mirai created by insecure IoT devices. One attack on DNS provider Dyn last year reached a record-breaking 1.2 Tbps of traffic and brought popular services including Twitter, PlayStation Network, and GitHub, offline as a result. As reported by IoT Tech yesterday, it's speculated one vigilante hacker is attempting to solve the problem with malware which bricks insecure devices before they become a threat.

"We do not rule out the possibility that there was foreign interference in the EU referendum caused by a DDOS using botnets, though we do not believe that any such interference had any material effect on the outcome of the EU referendum,” MPs warned in the report.

More people than ever before voted in the EU referendum, and many are thought to be the younger generation voting for perhaps the first time. It's thought many younger voters chose to remain, but an inability to register may have prevented some from casting their vote.

The report, however, criticised the government for a bias towards the Remain campaign and claims: "The manner of the presentation of Government reports, particularly those from the Treasury, and the decision to spend £9.3 million on sending a leaflet, advocating a Remain vote, to all UK households, were inappropriate and counterproductive for the Government."

Whether the hack or the government bias had any material impact on the EU referendum is unclear, but the situation in the UK and the US makes it clear governments need to be more prepared against cyber attacks from nations attempting to influence important decisions.

Do you think more protection is needed against foreign cyber attacks? Let us know in the comments.

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