Millions of detailed voter records found unprotected on the internet

A huge trove of voter data, including personal information and voter profiling data on what's thought to be every registered USA voter dating back more than a decade, has been found on an exposed and unsecured server, ZDNet has learned. Beyond all of that, it included modeled data on voters' ethnicity and religion. Deep Root says it didn't need to be.

According to an October 2016 report, there are just over 200 million people registered to vote in the United States.

The data contained in the database belonged to three data mining companies known to be associated with the Republican Party, namely Deep Root Analytics, TargetPoint Consulting, Inc., and Data Trust. The data was discovered on June 12, and secured two days later after Vickery reported the incident to federal regulators.

This leak shines a spotlight on the Republicans' multi-million dollar effort to better target potential voters by utilizing big data. The private firm - which has its own individual-level database of 194 million voters culled from registration files, consumer data and social media profiles - provides data and technology to groups in the Koch network, as well as GOP campaigns and vendors. The information and analysis exposed by this leak would make those targeted attacks much easier to conduct.

"It also comes at a time when the integrity of the U.S. electoral process has been tested by a series of cyber assaults against state voter databases, sparking concern that cyber risk could increasingly pose a threat to our most important democratic and governmental institutions". Unfortunately, the apparent inability to secure this information means it will also be used to attack the people behind the data, whether it's by breaching an organization's systems or accessing a public server. UpGuard reported that American Crossroads, the super-PAC Republican strategist Karl Rove helped start, likely contributed data, as did a company called Data Trust, which boasts a mission of "continually develop [ing] a Republican and conservative data ecosystem through voter file collection, development, and enhancement". In 2015, Vickery discovered 191 million voter records being stored in an unsecured database. "This is not just sensitive, it's intimate information, predictions about people's behaviour, opinions and beliefs that people have never made a decision to disclose to anyone", Privacy International's policy officer Frederike Kaltheuner told the BBC. The hope here is that no one who could be considered unsavory accessed this data before Vickery brought attention to this oversight, but obviously it would have been preferable to not have to worry about such an intrusion in the first place. "We do not believe that our systems have been hacked". However, it is a double-edged sword; if the data is leaked it has the potential to impact American citizens in incredibly harmful ways, but that apparently hasn't inspired firms or political parties to be cautious. The data fields included views on specific issues including abortion, gun rights and environmental issues, he said.

To help you understand what Deep Root Analytics does, we inform local television ad buys for advertisers.


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