Published: Thu, June 08, 2017
Health Care | By Jan Bell

Alleged Russian Hack Reveals a Deeply Flawed Election System

Alleged Russian Hack Reveals a Deeply Flawed Election System

The document, purportedly produced by the U.S. National Security Agency, does not indicate whether actual vote-tampering occurred.

US intelligence officials had previously stated that Russian intelligence had won access to "multiple" election officials but had said that compromised machines were not involved with vote tallies. It also suggests that attackers may also have been laying groundwork for future subversive activity.

According to an AP analysis of the document's contents by University of MI computer scientist J. Alex Halderman, the actions taken by the Russian hackers could have theoretically enabled them to "steal" votes by directly targeting electronic voting machines. Flagler County Elections Supervisor Kaiti Lenhart said while her office is a customer of VR Systems, Flagler had not received any of the phishing emails aimed at gaining access to the network.

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. 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.

NBC2 News has confirmed that the Russian government tried to hack into the Collier County Election's Office computers, just days before the 2016 presidential election.

The New York Times and Intercept reported that two hacking attempts were made by Russia's military intelligence prior to the 2016 election, one on August 24 and again on November 7. The Associated Press has not independently verified the authenticity of the report, although its apparent leaker, an NSA contract worker, was arrested last weekend in Georgia. Analysts at the NSA believed the hackers were working for the Russian military's General Staff Main Intelligence Directorate, or GRU, according to the document.

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The report states that Russian military hackers ran a phishing scam targeting employees at an American company that provides election offices with voter registration systems.

The attempt involved sending an email with a Microsoft Word attachment containing malware that would give hackers control of infected computers, the Intercept reported. "It is important that voters know they can trust our systems and are always welcome to ask questions". To date, no evidence of tampering with vote tallies or registration rolls has emerged.

An alleged attempted cyberattack on US voting systems included an effort to hack into the Volusia County Supervisor of Elections Office. The attack sketched out in the NSA document appears designed specifically to cope with that sprawl.

But in September, the Federal Bureau of Investigation held a conference call with all 67 county elections supervisors in the battleground state of Florida to inform them of infiltration of VR Systems without naming the company.

And late Tuesday, Wayne County Clerk Debra Berry said she received confirmation from VR Systems that no IN counties were impacted, adding the primary focus was customers IN Florida.

Humboldt County's connection to VR Systems comes through the Texas-based company Hart InterCivic, Sanders said.

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"We immediately notified all our customers and advised them not to click on the attachment", VR Systems said in a statement.

The Interceptor says the NSA found "potential victims" at the company and that at least one of the employee accounts was likely compromised.

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. "I've said it hundreds of times: 'You can't hack paper.' Seminole County votes on trusted paper ballots".

Sanders said that the county is now seeking a new vendor to provide the polling software, but said it was due to changes in state regulations and not in any way related to the hacking incident.

Someone trying to cause chaos and discredit an election could delete names from registration rolls prior to voting — or request absentee ballots en masse.

Russian President Vladimir Putin has strongly denied Russian government involvement in election hacking, though he said last week that "patriotic" Russians could have been involved.

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Thursday night is expected to bring mostly cloudy skies, along with a 30 percent chance of showers overnight. Mostly clear skies and cool temperatures will develop tonight , with a low temperature of 54 degrees.

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