States review election systems for signs of hacking

Election software vendor part of attempted Russian cyber-attack has contracts in Indiana

The target of the attempted hack was VR Systems, an election system company based in Tallahassee. In Virginia, officials are now reviewing election security measures as a result. New evidence from a leaked intelligence document suggests that foreign adversaries are exploring ways to attack it anyway.

The report was published on an online news website called The Intercept and it talks about how hackers from Russian military tried repeatedly to break into U.S. voting systems before last year's presidential elections.

The efforts were detailed in a recently leaked report attributed to the U.S. It also suggests that attackers may also have been laying groundwork for future subversive activity.

Alex Halderman, a University of MI computer scientist whose projects have included simulated hacking of voting machines, called the latest disclosures "significant".

"Election integrity is very important to us here in Humboldt County and we're taking additional steps to make sure that nothing had been infiltrated", Sanders said.

Computer scientists have proven in the lab that once sophisticated attackers are inside an election network, they could manipulate pre-election programming of its systems and alter results without leaving a trace. Mark Warner, the top-ranking Democrat on the Intelligence Committee, told USA Today in an interview Tuesday.

Volusia's Lewis said such hacking attempts erode the public's trust in the country's voting process.

The alleged source for the NSA document, a 25-year-old government contractor in Georgia named Reality Leigh Winner, was charged with transmitting classified information Monday, just hours after the document was published. 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.

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The supplier, identified by the website as VR Systems of Tallahassee, contacted Florida counties it serves a year ago with guidance on what to do if they received the suspicious email from "vr.elections@gmail.com".

Palm Beach County Supervisor of Elections Susan Bucher had her office's emails checked as well, even though her office doesn't use VR Systems software. To date, no evidence of tampering with vote tallies or registration rolls has been discovered. The leak raises new concerns on the extent of Russian involvement in USA elections which led to Republican candidate Donald Trump beating Hillary Clinton to become the President of the United States. The attack sketched out in the NSA document appears designed specifically to cope with that sprawl.

The fraudulent email came through as a gmail.com account, and VR Systems told elections officials that emails from the company "will never come from an '@gmail.com' email address". Officials in at least five counties in Florida - a key political swing state - received the emails, the Miami Herald reported.

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

According to the Times, VR Systems' website said its products were used by jurisdictions in California, Florida, Illinois, Indiana, New York, North Carolina, Virginia and West Virginia.

Most US states now use optical scanners with paper ballots that can be audited, but a handful employ paperless systems with no paper trail to verify the count.

In a statement issued separately to the newsmedia, Masterson urged "federal agencies that have specific intelligence or resources that could help election officials better secure the election process to share that information with state and local officials as soon as possible". They claim internet-connected voter registration databases are the most obvious vulnerability, as evidenced by targeted attacks on voter databases in at least 20 states past year.

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