One month ago, The Miami Herald's Patricia Mazzei unleashed an excellent investigative report on an attempted series of online cyberhacks of absentee ballot requests prior to last August's primary election in Miami-Dade County, Florida.
Mazzei's article describes the mysterious attempt by someone to request more than 2,500 absentee ballots for elections in three different Miami-Dade districts using anonymous proxy Internet Protocol (IP) addresses from foreign countries to hide the real identity of the requester. A grand jury looked into the matter [PDF] of the "phantom" requests, but was hamstrung by the fact that they were not told --- the article says it was due to administrative confusion --- that the initial IP addresses used to make the absentee ballot requests were actually not from overseas, but local to Miami-Dade. Had prosecutors had that information, they might have been able to zero in on the culprits, rather than close the investigation late last year without identifying a suspect.
The case has now reportedly been reopened, but the length of time since the initial event may have allowed the trail run cold. Hopefully we will find out soon.
Last week, the story suddenly received a lot of fresh attention after it was picked up by NBC News' Gil Aegerter who describes what happened as the "first known case" of such a cyberattack on a U.S. election.
Setting aside, for now, the point as to whether this is the first such attack --- I've reported quite a bit of evidence of several others over the years (the NBC report links to a number of stories I've broken on these matters, including one of my stories at ComputerWorld in 2007 describing a malicious virus that struck Sarasota's contested 2006 Special Election for the U.S. House where some 18,000 votes ultimately disappeared from the touch-screen voting machines) --- there are a few key points and lessons from this story which I'd like to underscore, despite the fact that the mainstream corporate coverage has been pretty decent here for a change.
Additionally, one of several key remaining mysteries in the story --- one that I've been trying to make sense over the past several weeks, since learning of the story --- may now have an answer, or at least a new and troubling clue...