Kill Chain: The Cyber War on America's Elections

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Kill Chain: The Cyber War on America's Elections
Film poster
Directed bySimon Ardizzone
Russell Michaels
Sarah Teale
Narrated byHarri Hursti
Country of originUnited States
Original languageEnglish
ProducersSimon Ardizzone
Russell Michaels
Sarah Teale
Michael Hirschorn
Jessica Antonini
CinematographyMatt Porwoll
EditorsSimon Ardizzone
Phillip Schopper
Running time91 minutes
Production companiesBlumhouse Productions
HBO Films
Ish Entertainment
Original release
ReleaseMarch 26, 2020 (2020-03-26)

Kill Chain: The Cyber War on America's Elections is an American television documentary film produced by Ish Entertainment, Blumhouse Productions and HBO Films. The film examines the American election system and its vulnerabilities to foreign cyberwarfare operations and 2016 presidential election interference. The film also features hackers at the conference DEF CON in their attempts to test the security of electronic voting machines.[1][2][3][4][5]

The film was released on March 26, 2020 by HBO Films.

In 2021 the film was nominated for an Emmy award for Outstanding Investigative Documentary.[6]

The film reveals the hacking attack on the presidential election in 2016, through the exclusive on-camera interview with the hacker known as CyberZeist. CyberZeist penetrated the Alaska Division Of Elections' state vote tabulation computer system on 6 and 7 November 2016, and on election day, 8 November 2016.[7][8] CyberZeist successfully achieved this attack only weeks after the Alaska Division Of Elections admitted that Russian hackers had attempted to carry out a comparable attack.[9][10]

The film's world famous elections cybersecurity expert, Harri Hursti, discovered that most hackers install a range of software that will be hidden in multiple components of a computer, so that even wiping the hard drive will not remove the hackers’ access. CyberZeist told him, “I’ll go under their radar even if they are 24/7 monitoring it [the vote-counting server].” When reviewing the hack on the Alaska Division of Elections’ servers, Hursti discovered that CyberZeist could read or write any file, including system files: In other words, CyberZeist could have planted vote-stealing software that might still be there, waiting for a command to activate. As Hursti showed in Kill Chain, threat-actors might not even be looking to change results in an election, but to sabotage democracy and bring the process into disrepute.[11]



  1. ^ Morales, Abel (2020-05-03). "What to make of HBO's 'Kill Chain: The Cyber War on America's Elections'". Fifth Domain. Retrieved 2020-08-20.
  2. ^ "Review: Kill Chain: The Cyber War on America's Elections". Help Net Security. 2020-05-19. Retrieved 2020-08-20.
  3. ^ "This Documentary Will Show You Just How Fragile Our Democracy Really Is". Time. Retrieved 2020-08-20.
  4. ^ "HBO Documentary KILL CHAIN: THE CYBER WAR ON AMERICA'S ELECTIONS Available To Stream For Free". Pressroom. 6 April 2020. Retrieved 2020-08-20.
  5. ^ "Review: If coronavirus doesn't end us, electronic voting just might". Los Angeles Times. 2020-03-26. Retrieved 2020-08-20.
  6. ^ "News 2021 Nominees (Documentaries) – the Emmys". 26 July 2021.
  7. ^ "Hackers broke partway into Alaska's election system in 2016. Officials say no damage was done".
  8. ^ Archived 2021-10-26 at the Wayback Machine [bare URL]
  9. ^ "Alaska was unsuccessfully targeted by Russian Cyber Actors in 2016 election". 22 September 2017.
  10. ^ "Russian hackers 'unsuccessfully targeted' Alaska voter database last year, state says".
  11. ^ "What Happened when Our Election-Hacking Doc Came Out During Coronavirus".

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