A man in front of a series of voting machines

PBS NewsHour/YouTube

How the SolarWinds hack became the new focus of election fraud conspiracies

Conspiracy theorists are suggesting that Dominion is connected to a large-scale hack.

Dec 15, 2020, 8:21 am*

Tech

 

Mikael Thalen

Conspiracy theorists are attempting to link a large-scale hack of U.S. federal agencies to debunked claims of widespread voter fraud.

Featured Video Hide

The conspiracies began unfolding Sunday after it was revealed that the U.S. Treasury Department and the U.S. Commerce Department had been the victims of a sophisticated hack.

Advertisement Hide

The breach, which experts have linked to APT 29, a Russian government hacking group also known as "Cozy Bear," is said to have compromised numerous systems including the email communications at several federal agencies.

The hack appears to have been made possible after a breach at SolarWinds, a Texas-based IT company that provides services to numerous federal agencies.

The targeting of SolarWinds reportedly began as early as spring and resulted in a network monitoring tool known as Orion being backdoored by the hackers.

The total scope of the clandestine operation is still unknown as federal investigators work to unravel the months-long effort. SolarWinds admitted in a disclosure to the Securities and Exchange Commission on Monday that around 18,000 of its more than 300,000 customers—which includes both government entities and countless Fortune 500 companies—had been vulernable.

News of the hack came just days after it was learned that cybersecurity firm FireEye had been breached as well. Experts believe the incident, which resulted in the theft of the company's hacking tools, is tied to the same wide-scale hacking campaign.

Advertisement Hide

Conspiracy theorists, including Ron Watkins, the former 8chan administrator, insinuated on Monday that election results may not be trustworthy given that Dominion Voting Systems appeared to be a customer of SolarWinds.

The election technology firm has been at the center of countless debunked conspiracy theories since Trump lost the election, including the outlandish claim that U.S. Army soldiers were killed while seizing a Dominion server run by the CIA in Germany that was designed to manipulate U.S. votes.

"Dominion Voting Systems uses SolarWinds products and it is still not powered down," Watkins wrote. "Was Dominion Voting Systems a target? Was Dominion Voting Systems hacked?"

Advertisement Hide

Watkins shared a screenshot of a mobile login portal seemingly running on SolarWinds technology.

The screenshot was immediately picked up by far-right outlets such as the Gateway Pundit and was cited by supporters of the president as the latest evidence of voter fraud.

In a statement to the Daily Dot, however, Dominion said that at no point has it ever used the Orion tool from SolarWinds that allowed the hackers to breach targeted systems.

"Dominion Voting Systems does not now—nor has it ever—used the SolarWinds Orion Platform, which was subject of the DHS emergency directive dated December 12, 2020," a Dominion spokesperson said.

SolarWinds declined to provide a comment to the Daily Dot on the matter given the ongoing investigation into the breach.

Advertisement Hide

Like all other election fraud-related conspiracies, the SolarWinds claim will likely fade from prominence once Trump supporters find new allegations to latch onto.

SolarWinds described the hack as "a narrow, extremely targeted, and manually executed attack," suggesting that the hackers were intent on going after specific systems.

Share this article
*First Published: Dec 15, 2020, 8:17 am