Leaked NSA report highlights deep flaws in US elections

Posted June 08, 2017

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

Security experts have warned for years that hackers could penetrate electronic voting systems, and now, leaked national security documents suggest a concerted effort to do just that in the 2016 U.S. election.

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.

Bruce Schneier, chief technology officer of IBM Resilient and a fellow at Harvard's Berkman Klein Center for Internet & Society, said the report shows the weaknesses of USA election systems. "There is no evidence that any of the phishing emails were received by the staff in the county".

State election officials in the Indiana Secretary of State's office are also unaware of any issues and were not alerted by county clerks of any federal investigations or alerts from the election vendor, a spokesperson said.

VR Systems says it was alerted to the danger by a client, and the company advised its clients not to open the suspect email.

There is no evidence any of that happened last Election Day.

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The government report doesn't directly name the company, but it does reference the vendor VR Systems numerous times, and the company has since responded publicly after the leaked NSA report was made public. More than 120 spear-phishing emails were sent from that account. But he pointed out that even if hackers were able to break into voting results, the USA vote-tallying process is so decentralized that it would be nearly impossible to swing an election. We have dug a cyber moat around the data so we can ensure access of sensitive information and systems by only those granted access.

Sen. Mark Warner of Virginia, the ranking Democrat on the Senate intelligence committee, said Tuesday that hacking into state voting systems ahead of the November 8 vote was more widespread than has been disclosed.

"In no way did this have any effect on the counting of the ballots", she said. The software is not used to tabulate voting results.

Florida State Association of Supervisors of Elections attorney Ron Labasky says even with the intrusion, hackers never got access to ballots or voting software.

"I just thought it was some scam", Lewis said Tuesday.

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.

"We are only aware of a handful of our customers who actually received the fraudulent email and of those, we have no indication that any of them clicked on the attachment or were compromised as a result", the statement said.

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The company added that it had policies and procedures in place to protect their customers.

Attempts to contact Hart InterCivic were not immediately returned.

In Summary, I would like to quote a recent blog entry by Mike Ertel, Seminole County Supervisor of Elections.

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

In a statement released by VR Systems Tuesday afternoon, the company says it took action after it first received reports of fraudulent email.

"The great thing about Florida in 2016 was we have used, since 2008, paper ballots and you can not hack a paper ballot", Corley said.

"As long as you have good layered security in today's world, that's about the best you can do", Storm said.

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