Russian Hackers Targeted Voting Software Company Used by Humboldt County

A voting software company that has supplied Humboldt County with election equipment was targeted by Russian military intelligence officials as part of a cyberattack just before the November election last year. The disturbing information was revealed in a highly classified National Security Agency document leaked to and published by The Intercept on Monday.

According to The Intercept, Russia’s military intelligence unit, the G.R.U., successfully hacked Florida voting software company, VR Systems, in the summer of 2016. It was then able to carry out a broader spear-phishing operation against 100 local election officials across the country. Humboldt County’s Office of Elections contracts with an elections company called InterCivic, which used VR Systems for its electronic poll books.

There is no evidence that Humboldt County was a specific target of the Russian operation, nor that any voter data in the county was accessed or compromised. Nevertheless, Humboldt officials are acting swiftly to shore up confidence in the integrity of its election system. Election officials say they are checking all voter data for any irregularities. In addition, County Clerk Kelly Sanders will speak to the Governor’s Office of Emergency Services and IT staff with the California Secretary of State today regarding in-depth diagnostic checks of the county’s elections systems.

“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,” said Sanders.

Secretary of State Alex Padilla reiterated that there is no evidence of any breach of elections systems in California. He has not found any other counties besides Humboldt that used VR Systems’ devices. Humboldt is no longer using the equipment.

In related news, authorities have identified the leaker of the NSA document that revealed the information. Reality Leigh Winner, a 25-year-old federal contractor from Georgia, was arrested and charged with transmitting classified information on Monday. She faces up to 10 years in prison.


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