UK lawmakers broach possible Brexit vote hacking

A UK parliamentary group has said a website for voters to register in last year's Brexit referendum may have been targeted by hackers. The findings follow claims Russia sought to influence the US and French elections.

A report compiled by the UK parliament's Public Administration and Constitutional Affairs Committee (PACAC) said it could not rule out the possibility that foreign hackers may have interfered in last summer's Brexit referendum.

Politics | 29.03.2017

The evidence relates to a website that allowed Britons to register to vote. The site, lawmakers said, may have been targeted and caused to crash just before the registration deadline. The crash was initially blamed on a late rush of young voters to the website.

Read: Post-Brexit, the hard work begins now for the UK

"PACAC is deeply concerned about these allegations about foreign interference," said the report said, although the committee added that it did not believe that any interference would have had an impact on the outcome of the Brexit vote.

Nevertheless, it called on the government to ensure that all future elections and plebiscites had the necessary contingency in place to "respond to and contain any cyber attacks."

While the report refuses to identify who may have been responsible for such an attack, the findings repeatedly reference claims of Russian interference in the US and French presidential elections. 

It also explains how Russian and Chinese cyber-hacking techniques "use a cognitive approach based on understanding of mass psychology and of how to exploit individuals."

In the US, the FBI and CIA intelligence agencies blamed the Russian government for trying to influence the American election in Republican Donald Trump's favor by promoting unfavorable coverage of Democrat Hillary Clinton.

Both the FBI and the US House of Congress have launched probes investigating evidence of Russian interference and possible links between the Trump campaign team and Russian officials.

The party chief for the independent candidate in France's presidential election, Emmanuel Macron, said the current front-runner had been targeted by a misinformation campaign and hacker attacks.

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The PACAC committee was also critical of the UK government's response to the referendum outcome, finding that "There was no proper planning for a Leave vote so the EU referendum opened up much new controversy and left the prime minister's (David Cameron) credibility destroyed."

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Ministers broached whether Cameron's motivation for calling the referendum was a "bluff call" intended to shut down "unwelcome debate" on the UK's European Union membership - a bluff that obviously backfired.

Cameron campaigned to remain within the EU, despite facing major opposition within his own party. He resigned from his post after losing the vote.

dm/rt (Reuters)