Alleged Russian hack reveals a deeply flawed election system

The National Security Agency headquarters at Fort Meade Md. Winner worked in the Georgia office of contractor Pluribus International

The report, which was received by The Intercept, explains how Russian military intelligence infiltrated the company that made the election software used in eight states, according to WGN.

This information was included in a highly classified report by the National Security Agency. In Arizona and IL, election officials reported breaches of voter registration databases but said systems involved in counting votes were not affected.

Interestingly, several clear warnings about just how vulnerable our voting systems was to foreign hacking were issued before the election, even while many so-called experts were downplaying any such possibility, and when most of the nation's attention was focused on Russian attempts to influence the presidential election by releasing emails and other embarrassing information, not by hacking.

On Nov. 1, VR Systems sent emails to almost all county supervisor of elections officials warning them not to open the attachments after the company was alerted to the hacking by a customer.

The news of a reported Russian hacking attempt surprised Bill Brian, elections board chairman in Durham County, which experienced problems with VR Systems' electronic poll books on Election Day.

Security experts have long contended that the highly decentralized, often ramshackle US election system is its own best defense against trickery or sabotage.

The NSA report does not say whether the cyberattack effort had any effect on the election results.

In some states, VR software was used in only a handful of voting jurisdictions.


Amber Smith of the Osceola County Supervisor of Elections Office said her office did not receive the phishing email.

In Virginia, state Elections Commissioner Edgardo Cortes, said he could not comment on whether any local officials were targeted by the phishing emails, but he said he was not aware of any breaches.

Humboldt officials used VR Systems equipment during the November election, but are no longer using it, Sanders said.

The Orange County Supervisor of Elections Office designed its own software and does not contract with VR Systems.

"We didn't find anything", Bucher said. The county used the software to sign in voters. Federal officials have stressed that state or local participation in any DHS programs is voluntary, and suggested that DHS expertise might be able to help election officials secure themselves against online attacks. It outlines efforts by hackers described as "actors" of the Russian GRU intelligence agency to compromise the online accounts and computers of companies providing state and local governments with voter registration technology. By midday Wednesday, only one county said it had. Hackers who penetrated its network with a method called SQL injection spent three weeks rooting around before they were discovered in July.

Both Seminole and Volusia county officials added that voter-registration records are in no way connected to ballot counting. He said the intrusion had been traced to some servers in the Netherlands and he heard speculation of Russian involvement.

"For over 15 years, I and a lot of other people have said we had never seen a confirmed hack of voting systems". "That wasn't part of our need-to-know".

Winner, 25, of Augusta, Ga., has been charged with copying classified documents and mailing them to a reporter with an unnamed news organization, according to the U.S. Justice Department. Associated Press writers Frank Bajak in Houston; Sophia Bollag in Sacramento, California; Michael Virtanen in Morgantown, West Virginia; Alan Suderman in Richmond, Virginia; and Sophia Tareen in Chicago contributed to this article.

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