In the wake of former presidential candidate Mitt Romney’s decision to run for Senate in Utah, the state’s online voter registration database has suffered more than one billion hacking attempts per day.
You didn’t read that wrong. According to Utah state elections director Justin Lee, the one billion attempts per day – that’s more than 12,000 per second – are the result of increased scrutiny on the state’s elections since Mitt Romney announced he’d run for US Senate in Utah, and subsequently beat out state Representative Mike Kennedy for the Republican nod.
There isn’t much information on the exact nature of the hacks, but it’s believed by Lee and other experts that the combination of a high profile former presidential candidate running for Senate, and said candidate’s criticism of Donald Trump and Russia have contributed significantly to the record breaking rise in network attacks.
According to a report from local news source Deseret News, Lee said there was no way to definitively determine the parties responsible for all breach attempts, but he does believe there’s a connection to Romney’s campaign:
I can tell you we sat down, my team and I sat down … the day that Mitt Romney announced that he was running. We realized that day that this was different, that this was a game changer. Because, you had a former presidential candidate who was very outspoken when it came to Russia, specifically the Russian threat. We’d been kind of a low-profile state when it comes to elections and now suddenly we’re very high-profile.
For context, Romney ran for POTUS against Barrack Obama in 2012, losing by a slender margin. In what’s since been considered a pivotal moment leading up to that election, Obama openly chided Romney during a debate for still considering Russia the boogeyman. Obama, in a statement that’s aged incredibly poorly, said:
When you were asked, what’s the biggest geopolitical threat facing America, you said ‘Russia.’ Not Al-Qaeda; you said Russia. And, the 1980s are now calling to ask for their foreign policy back, because, the Cold War’s been over for 20 years.
It was a sick burn at the time, but it’s since been alleged that Russian hackers, and certain individuals and companies involved with the 2016 US presidential race, colluded to help Donald Trump win. Which not only leaves Obama with some egg on his face, but it puts a target on Romney’s back.
Whether hackers are actively trying to disrupt US politics through loyalty to Russia, Trump, or simply out of a desire to sew the seeds of doubt and chaos into our democracy is something we may never know. But what’s important is that Lee, and a team of 30 computer experts, are holding off a billion attacks per day. And that’s impressive no matter what your politics are.