Home / Technology / A Georgia election server used to be prone to Shellshock and can have been hacked

A Georgia election server used to be prone to Shellshock and can have been hacked

Closeup photograph of a Georgia voter access card.

Forensic proof presentations indicators Georgia election server can have been hacked forward of the 2016 and 2018 elections via somebody who exploited Shellshock, a essential flaw that provides attackers complete keep an eye on over inclined techniques, a pc safety skilled stated in a courtroom submitting on Thursday.

Shellshock came to light in September 2014 and used to be straight away known as some of the critical vulnerabilities to be disclosed in years. The explanations: it (a) used to be simple to milk, (b) gave attackers the power to remotely run instructions and code in their selection, and (c) opened maximum Linux and Unix techniques to assault. In consequence, the flaw gained widespread news coverage for months.

Patching at the sly

Regardless of the severity of the vulnerability, it remained unpatched for 3 months on a server operated via the Heart for Election Methods at Kennesaw State College, the gang that used to be answerable for programming Georgia election machines. The flaw wasn’t mounted till December 2, 2014, when an account with the username shellshock patched the essential vulnerability, the skilled’s research of a forensic symbol presentations. The shellshock account have been created handiest 19 mins previous. Sooner than patching the vulnerability, the shellshock person deleted a record titled shellsh0ck. A bit of greater than a part hour after patching, the shellshock person used to be disabled.

A timeline supplied via the skilled presentations the next:

12/2/2014 10:45 – the person mpearso9 is changed the usage of the Webmin console
12/2/2014 10:47 – shellshock person created the usage of Webmin console
12/2/2014 10:49 – /house/shellshock/.bash_history final changed
12/2/2014 11:02 – /house/shellshock/shellsh0ck record is deleted
12/2/2014 11:06 – bash patched to model four.2+dfsg-Zero.1+deb7u3 to stop shellshock
12/2/2014 11:40 – shellshock person disabled the usage of Webmin console

There used to be extra: The shellshock account’s bash_history—a record that generally information all instructions accomplished via the person—contained a unmarried command: to sign off of the server. The skilled stated that absence of instructions appearing the advent and later deletion of a record within the person’s listing used to be “suspicious” and led him to consider that the bash historical past used to be changed in an try to conceal the person’s process. The skilled additionally famous that the patching of vulnerabilities is a not unusual apply amongst hackers after breaking right into a machine. It prevents different would-be intruders from exploiting the similar insects.

Taken in combination, the proof signifies that somebody can have used Shellshock to hack the server, the pc skilled stated.

“The lengthy unpatched tool, abnormal username, probably changed command historical past, and close to quick patching of the shellshock computer virus are all sturdy items of proof that an out of doors attacker received entry to the KSU server via exploiting the shellshock computer virus,” wrote Logan Lamb, who’s a professional witness for plaintiffs in a lawsuit in search of an finish to Georgia’s use of paperless vote casting machines. Lamb stated extra forensic research used to be required to substantiate the assault and decide what the person did at the server.

Drupalgeddon and extra

The affidavit comes 31 months after, as Politico first reported, Lamb found out that the elections server at Kennesaw State College used to be unpatched in opposition to some other high-severity flaw, this one within the Drupal content material control machine. The chance posed via the vulnerability used to be so nice that researchers temporarily gave it the nickname “Drupageddon”. Lamb’s discovery of the unpatched server took place in August 2016, 22 months after the flaw got here to gentle and a Drupal replace turned into to be had.

After studying the Politico document, a bunch of election-integrity activists sued Georgia officers and in the end sought a replica of the server in an try to see if it have been compromised during the Drupalgeddon vulnerability. The plaintiffs would later be told that Kennesaw officers had wiped the server blank two days after the criticism used to be filed.

The plaintiffs in any case bought a replicate symbol taken in March 2017 via the FBI. The bureau have been referred to as in to decide if Lamb and some other researcher had violated any regulations. (The investigation later decided that they had now not.) State officers adversarial the plaintiffs’ movement for a replica of the replicate symbol however in the end misplaced.

Proof that the server can have been hacked during the Shellshock vulnerability wasn’t the one relating to factor Lamb stated he discovered. He additionally discovered “rankings of recordsdata” that have been deleted on March 2, 2017, in a while sooner than the server used to be taken offline and passed over to the FBI. Lamb nonetheless doesn’t know what the deleted recordsdata contained, however in keeping with the filenames, he believes they’re associated with elections.


The replicate symbol additionally presentations that direct-recording digital vote casting machines utilized in Georgia have been working old-fashioned and inclined variations of tool referred to as BallotStation. Lamb additionally discovered that elections.kennesaw.edu, which state officers represented used to be intended for use for a couple of functions restricted to elections management, used to be, if truth be told, used for various functions.

Moreover, he found out that Drupal entry logs, which retailer all requests made to the server, went again handiest to November 10, 2016, two days after the 2016 election.

“The lacking logs might be necessary to figuring out if the server used to be illegally accessed sooner than the election, and I will recall to mind no legit reason information from that essential time period must were deleted,” Lamb wrote.

As Politico famous in an article posted on Friday, it’s now not abnormal for access-log knowledge to be deleted over a suite time period. This Drupal.org page presentations that, via default, the retention duration is 4 weeks and that each one knowledge after that duration can be deleted. That default, after all, may also be modified. The span that handed between November 10, 2016—the primary day mirrored within the logs—and March 2, 2017, is 16 weeks.

In a commentary, a spokesman for Georgia Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger wrote: “Those plaintiffs have did not be successful within the vote casting sales space, failed within the Common Meeting, failed in public opinion, and now, they’re creating a determined try to make Georgia’s paper-ballot machine fail as smartly via asking a pass judgement on to sabotage its implementation.” Throughout the spokesman, secretary of state officers declined a request for an interview.

Of maximum worry in Lamb’s affidavit is the proof somebody can have used the Shellshock vulnerability to achieve unauthorized entry to the elections server. If proper, it calls into query the integrity of Georgia vote casting machines throughout two elections.

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