LONDON • A website which allowed Britons to register to vote in last year's European Union referendum might have been targeted by foreign hackers, causing it to crash before the deadline, a committee of British lawmakers said yesterday.
More than a million potential voters applied to register online in the run-up to the deadline two weeks before last June's vote and the government extended the cut-off point after the website crashed, blaming it on a late rush by mainly young citizens.
In a report, Parliament's Public Administration and Constitutional Affairs Committee said it did not rule out the possibility that the crash was caused by a distributed denial of service cyber attack. It said it is "deeply concerned about these allegations about foreign interference", but added it does not believe any interference had affected the outcome of the vote.
Russia has been accused of trying to influence the 2016 presidential election in the United States, and the committee said the British government needed to ensure future elections and referendums were monitored with plans in place to respond to and contain any cyber attacks.
"The US and UK understanding of 'cyber' is predominantly technical and computer-network based. For example, Russia and China use a cognitive approach based on understanding of mass psychology and of how to exploit individuals," the report said.
"The implications of this different understanding of cyber attack, as technical or as reaching beyond the digital to influence public opinion, for the interference in elections and referendums are clear."
The committee was also critical of former British prime minister David Cameron's government's failure to prepare for a vote for Brexit. The lack of planning, it said, "opened up much new controversy and left the prime minister's credibility destroyed".