Russian hackers were able to breach one Florida county’s voting systems during the 2016 Presidential Election, Florida Senator Marco Rubio confirmed in an interview, noting that that hackers not only accessed the county’s systems, but had the ability to change voter roll data, according to The New York Times.
The Times’ report details how hackers mimicked e-mails from VR systems, a company that sells electronic voting equipment to states. Some voting officials noticed something was off — it used British vocabulary and a Gmail account — but in at least one county, hackers were successful. Senator Rubio confirmed that hackers were able to gain access to a system, and that they were “in a position” to alter records.
Last week’s report from Robert Mueller on Russian interference in the 2016 election confirmed that hackers had infiltrated the vendor, and had breached the computer systems of one Florida county, leading Florida officials to wonder which county — something the FBI hasn’t revealed, even to state officials. Earlier this week, The Miami Herald reported that the FBI will meet with Florida Governor Ron DeSantis and Florida Senator Rick Scott in the coming weeks to brief them.
Campaign designed to undermine the election process
Rubio’s statement confirms a report that the Senate Intelligence Committee issued last year, which states that the Russian-aligned actors targeted state government and vendor systems and “scanned databases for vulnerabilities, attempted intrusions, and in a small number of cases successfully penetrated a voter registration database,” all designed to undermine the election process.
That report also stated that in some instances, “these cyber actors were in a position to, at a minimum, alter or delete voter registration data,” although the report did not say which states were affected, and noted that hackers didn’t appear to have actually altered any records.
In 2017, The Intercept obtained and reported on a secret NSA report that that detailed Russia’s efforts to breach US election systems during the prior year’s election. in particular, it highlighted that Russian agents had compromised a software vendor, and that they had undertaken a spear-phishing campaign against election officials. A later report from Bloomberg brought further insights: that hackers attempted to breach systems in 39 states, and had gained access to voter records.