Some states review election systems for signs of intrusion

Posted June 10, 2017

State and local election officials across the country reported numerous hacking alerts previous year from suspicious emails sent to their systems, including at least eight Florida counties that received one tied to what US intelligence officials say was a Russian effort to disrupt the presidential campaign.

The NSA report adds significant new detail to previous USA intelligence assessments that alleged Russia-backed hackers had compromised elements of America's electoral machinery. In Arizona and IL, election officials reported breaches of voter registration databases but said systems involved in counting votes were not affected.

The firm that the report said was hacked says its voter registration software was used by local election offices in eight states. Officials in at least five counties in Florida - a key political swing state - received the emails, the Miami Herald reported.

The revelations of attempted breaches just before last November's election surprised officials around the country.

That comes as election officials thwarted a separate attack on their own system.

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Most Florida counties use VR Systems software to manage voter information and rolls, not for voting machines or tabulation.

California officials said only Humboldt County, in the far northern part of the state, used VR software during last year's election.

"There's thousands of them every day", said Clay County Elections Supervisor Chris Chambless, who also serves as president of the Florida State Association of Election Supervisors.

Election offices across the country were on high alert previous year after US intelligence identified potential Russian threats.

The U.S. elections system is a patchwork of more than 3,000 jurisdictions overseen by the states with nearly no federal oversight or standards.

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The NSA document says Russian military intelligence first targeted employees of a Florida voting systems supplier in August.

IL officials have asked local elections offices whether they used VR's software in 2016.

Last September, the Department of Homeland Security told the AP that hackers believed to be Russian agents had targeted voter registration systems in more than 20 states. The NSA document says at least one account was likely compromised. Hackers who penetrated its network with a method called SQL injection spent three weeks rooting around before they were discovered in July. Despite this, Homeland Security believes IL was hit the worst in regard to voter registration systems which are also believed to have been hacked by Russian Federation. Now it is the sobering reality, and Floridians need to know exactly what happened and what more will be done to prevent such interference in our elections going forward.

Stimson said that with more specific information that breaches were possible, states could have offered help to local election officials and created firewalls to make sure any local problems would not have caused problems at the state level.

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