Russia Was Possibly Behind Brexit Vote Website Crash, Panel Says

  • Voter registration site failed hours before deadline
  • Lawmakers ‘deeply concerned’ about interference claims

Foreign governments such as Russia and China may have been responsible for a crash in the U.K.’s voter registration website in the weeks before the Brexit referendum, according to a report by Parliament’s Public Administration Committee.

The website crashed on the evening of June 7, 2016, as the deadline for registration approached, and after a television referendum special featuring Prime Minister David Cameron and the then-leader of the U.K. Independence Party, Nigel Farage. The government responded by extending the deadline for another two days.

The cross-party PACAC said it had no direct evidence foreign governments were to blame, rather than simply a surge in demand, but noted that the crash had indications of being a distributed denial of service attack. It urged the U.K. government to look at how to defend elections from sophisticated attacks.

“Russia and China use a cognitive approach based on understanding of mass psychology and of how to exploit individuals,” the committee’s report concluded. “PACAC is deeply concerned about these allegations about foreign interference.”

Intelligence agencies have concluded that Russian President Vladimir Putin ordered a campaign to influence last year’s U.S. election, undermining Hillary Clinton. In the ongoing French presidential election, Emmanuel Macron’s campaign has claimed it too is the target of Russian cyber-attacks and disinformation.

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