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Security & privacy

Hackers selling info on 148 million voters – Here’s what you can do

Intelligence agencies have identified attempts by two foreign governments to interfere in the 2020 Presidential Election. According to reports from the Department of Justice, Iran and Russia — both of which oppose U.S. interests — have worked to sow discord and break down trust in the election process.

The two countries managed to gain access to voter information from multiple U.S. states. But that’s not all — Iran was also caught spoofing emails to make violent threats against voters. Tap or click here to see full details from the DOJ.

But more appears to have happened with stolen voter information. Security researchers have detected data belonging to nearly 150 million U.S. voters is now up for sale on the Dark Web. This means anyone who buys it now has a way to contact you with spam, scam calls and more. Here’s what you can do to stop it.

Loose voter data means more cyberthreats against everybody

According to a report from Trustwave, hackers are now selling data belonging to at least 148 million voters on a Dark Web marketplace. The files, which include personally-identifying information on more than 200 million Americans, also contain voter registration data and contact information like email addresses and phone numbers.

The data appears to have been lifted from public sources like government websites. It also includes bits and pieces of information obtained from data breaches.

Although voter information can be accessed by legitimate parties like pollsters, companies and political groups, these hackers paired voter rolls with breached contact information when creating their listing. This makes it easy for groups like scammers (and nation-state hackers) to contact voters with fraud and disinformation campaigns.

To make matters worse, the data can easily be separated by political party. That’s right — they can now target you based on whether you’re a Republican or Democrat. Spooky!

After it discovered the listing, Trustwave reported its findings to the FBI. In a statement to NBC News, the Bureau acknowledged it is coordinating with federal, state and local partners to safeguard the voting process.

Is my information at risk? What can be done with my data?

As of now, we only know the name of one state affected by this breach: North Carolina. In Trustwave’s report, the firm found detailed discussions on the Dark Web forum about voter information obtained from the state government’s website.

Because North Carolina is a “swing state” in the 2020 election, it’s logical to assume other competitive states are targets. But regardless of where you live, it’s important to take precautions and protect yourself against disinformation and fraud.

The stolen voter data found in Trustwave’s report may contain your phone number, email address and physical address. This means you need to be vigilant about any kind of communications coming your way — email, phonecall or otherwise.

If a foreign disinformation agent or fraudster tries to contact you, here’s how you can spot the scam:

  • Watch for poor spelling and grammar: Foreign agents may not have as clear of an understanding of English, which can lead to unusual spelling and grammar errors. The same can be said for scam messages. Official communications from government entities or major companies will always be spell-checked.
  • Threatening language: Political campaigns, companies and government agencies will not threaten you with fines or jail time over the phone, email or text message. If any communications include threatening or urgent-sounding language, that’s a major red flag.
  • Sensationalism is suspicious: Beware of stories or messages that seem overly controversial. If you get a call or email saying there will be violence or danger at the polls, for example, that’s a classic sign of disinformation.

It bears repeating, but never give out any personal information if someone requests it by phone, email or text. These scammers already have enough information about you as it is. Tap or click here to see a website that will tell you what else they might know about you.

In addition, never download any file attachments or click any links sent to you in unsolicited emails or texts. You don’t want to be dealing with malware on top of scams and election disinformation.

If fraud or disinformation happens to come your way, report these election crimes to the FBI.  If enough people keep track of the scams circulating around the election, we’ll have an easier time protecting ourselves and our election.

It’s our country. We the People are the only ones who should be having a say in who runs it.

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