Report suggests Russia hackers breached voting software firm

06 June, 2017, 05:35 | Author: Kristopher Anderson

Russian military hackers targeted a voting software company and more than 100 USA local election officials in a massive cyberattack days before the presidential election, according to a secret National Security Agency report.

The NSA document offers the clearest indication yet that Russian hackers sought to penetrate United States voting systems tied to voter registration in the days and weeks leading up to the election.

The FBI made good on President Donald Trump's repeated promise to "find the leakers" Monday, arresting and charging 25-year-old Reality Leigh Winner with leaking classified documents to the media.

Dated May 5, 2017, the NSA document was provided anonymously to the online news site - which specializes in national security issues - and indicates that Kremlin efforts to hack America's voting infrastructure were deeper than U.S. Government officials have previously admitted.

On August 24 of previous year, Russian hackers sent emails created to look like they were from Google to employees of an unnamed USA election software company. News confirmed, through a "senior federal official", that Winner's leak was the one reported on by The Intercept.

They had been given a "cyber espionage mandate specifically directed at US and foreign elections", the report says.

The seven-page complaint against victor, filed in Georgia's Augusta Richmond County earlier today, alleges that victor, a 25-year-old contractor with the security system supplier Pluribus International Corporation, printed out and mailed the classified intelligence report to The Intercept.

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In late October, the group established an "operational" Gmail account and posed as an employee from VR Systems - using previously obtained documents to launch another spear-phishing attack "targeting U.S. local government organizations", the report says. The NSA document does not directly identify the company in question, but contains references to the VR Systems, whose electronic voter database products are used in eight states. GRU "may have breached at least some elements of the voting system", particularly "elements of multiple US state or local electoral boards". US intelligence officials then asked The Intercept to redact certain sections.

Court records don't identify the agency victor worked for or the news organization.

The DOJ's statement also said victor, who is charged with "removing classified material from a government facility and mailing it to a news outlet", admitted to leaking the document.

Winner's attorney, Titus Nichols, said she has no criminal history and is "a very good person". "All this craziness has happened all of a sudden".

A sworn affidavit from FBI Special Agent Justin Garrick only said that the document contained "defense information".

The federal agency victor worked for first became aware of Winner's alleged leak after being contacted by the news outlet for comment. Garrick said investigators found victor had exchanged email with the news outlet using her work computer. According to Justice's press release, victor admitted to knowingly printing classified information and sending it to the media.

Asked if victor had confessed, Nichols said, "If there is a confession, the government has not shown it to me".

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