Alleged Russian hack reveals a deeply flawed election system

The Intercept Discloses Top-Secret NSA Document on Russia Hacking Aimed at US Voting System

Humboldt County's Elections and Voter Registration offices are located at 2426 West Sixth Street in northern Eureka.

The office said in a press release it has its own IT department that has their own voter registration software and electronic poll book check-in system. The hackers might have been considering deleting some records and forcing officials to turn legitimate voters away, said elections technology security expert Alex Halderman, of the University of MI. More than 120 spear-phishing emails were sent from that account. "There was no evidence that we were hacked or anything like that". But it suggests hackers got deeper into United States voting systems than previously believed. "However, due to the sensitive nature of the discussions we can not comment further".

Apparently exploiting technical data obtained in that operation, the cyber spies later sent phishing emails to more than 100 local US election officials just days ahead of the November 8 vote, intent on stealing their login credentials and breaking into the their systems, the document says.

The NSA document did not name any of the states where local officials were targeted by the emails masquerading as being from VR Systems. "All this craziness has happened all of a sudden", said Nichols.

The emails looked authentic because Russian hackers persuaded several VR Systems employees in late August to enter their credentials into a fake website, according to the document. The NSA memo notes that it is unknown whether these phishing emails successfully compromised any of the target emails.

As recently as last week, Russian President Vladimir Putin has categorically denied Russian involvement in USA elections on a state level.

Tallahassee-based VR Systems had warned counties about the attempt, he said. "They did not provide any information specific to VR Systems".

In a statement the Florida Division of Elections says the state's voting system is secure, largely due to efforts in decentralization, a strong paper trail, and efforts to keep the systems offline.

Greenhalgh said that even though most jurisdictions have paper ballots which can be used for recounts, "the bad news is the vast majority of the country doesn't do an audit to catch any errors in the vote counting software". "Even the computers we scan the ballots on, that's a separate computer than what we tabulate the results on".

Hacking elections "has always been thought of as a theoretical possibility, but now we know it is a real threat", said Susan Greenhalgh, a researcher with the Verified Voting Foundation, an election systems monitor.

"VR [Systems] seemed to think that very few of their customers received the phishing emails", Sanders said.

The emails included an attached Microsoft Word document infected with malware that appeared to be a user manual but if opened could give hackers wide access to a computer. We have policies and procedures in effect to protect our customers and our company. Snipes said the company immediately identified the problem when contacted.




"This has been in the works for a number of years", she said.

An initial phishing email was sent on October 31 to former Volusia Elections Supervisor Ann McFall, who had retired months earlier but whose account remained active.

Sarah Revell, director of communications for the Florida Department of State, issued a statement Wednesday calling the state's online elections databases and voting systems "secure" in 2016.

"Especially after hearing so much about the Russian involvement, to see it come local was really kind of surprising", said Holland.

Storm said that this filtration system is not foolproof, but said that is where the county's intrusion prevention system would kick in and block it.

"The only exception in law permits voters with disabilities to vote on accessible equipment that meetings voting system accessibility requirements to comply with the Americans with Disabilities Act, " she said.

After the first suspicious email was sent last August, the FBI's Jacksonville office held a conference call on September 30 with county supervisors of elections to alert them to "a malicious act found in a jurisdiction" in Florida, according to Ion Sancho, the former Leon County elections supervisor who was on the call.

Victor is still in federal custody, and she will have a detention hearing on Thursday.

"It makes me feel like we're under attack a little bit", Mello said.

A federal contractor, Reality Leigh Winner, 25, was arrested and charged this week with leaking the "Top Secret level" document to the website after it was discovered she printed out the document and sent it to the website.

The documents' authenticity has been confirmed by U.S. officials, and the U.S. Department of Justice charged on June 5 charged victor. According to an Federal Bureau of Investigation affidavit, victor admitted sending the document to The Intercept. President Donald Trump has yet to acknowledge the findings of the leaked documents. Victor faces up to 10 years in prison if convicted.

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