DHS report – Voting systems in North Carolina county in 2016 were not hacked

Pierluigi Paganini December 31, 2019

Computer faults that disrupted voting in a North Carolina county in 2016 were not caused by cyber attacks, a federal investigation states.

On Monday, the U.S. Department of Homeland Security shared the results of an investigation on computer errors that disrupted voting in a North Carolina county in 2016, authorities were not able to associate them with cyber attacks.

The Feds’ report said it didn’t find any malware or evidence of remote access to the Durham County Board of Elections systems.

“After voter check-in software failed, federal authorities conducted a forensic analysis of the county’s electronic poll books to see if Russian military hackers who targeted the software provider may have tampered with registration information to disrupt voting.” reported the AP agency.

The analysis of laptops used in some Durham County precincts on Election Day in November 2016 showed inaccurate data to poll workers. In some cases the voters were not correctly identified, some of them resulted as they had already voted and others as being unregistered.

The errors affecting the VR Systems electronic poll books forced officials to switch to paper registration records, the duration of the overall voting operations was extended due to the problems.

The investigation involved 21 laptops used for the voters’ identification and experts performed a forensic exam of the seized computers.

The feds pointed out that the analysis highlighted that the cybersecurity of several voting processes could be improved.

In June 2017, Homeland Security officials stated that the attack against the 2016 Presidential election was more sophisticated than first thought.

In a public hearing into the Russian interference in the 2016 Presidential election held by the US Senate Intelligence Committee, at the time Department of Homeland Security director of the cyber division, Dr. Samuel Liles, claimed that the electoral networks in 21 US states were probed by hackers a month before the election. The systems in a few states were hacked.

The Department of Homeland Security director avoided disclosing the name of the US states. Russian hackers tried to exploit software vulnerabilities in the target systems by using a number of publicly known exploits.

Russian hackers presidential election 2016

Liles’ claims were also supported by Jeanette Manfra, acting director of Homeland Security’s national protection and programs directorate.Jeanette Manfra confirmed that hackers breached some websites and computer networks, but voting tallies from the 2016 election hadn’t been hacked.

The forensic analysis of the laptops used in Durham County was the first known federal investigation of equipment that malfunctioned during the 2016 election.

“VR Systems had been targeted by a Russian spear-phishing campaign, but Chief Operating Officer Ben Martin has maintained the company was not hacked as a result.” continues AP news. “Martin has said he believes a report on Russian interference in the 2016 election from special counsel Robert Mueller was referring to his Tallahassee, Florida, company in describing how Russian spies installed malware on the network of a company that “developed software used by numerous U.S. counties to manage voter rolls.”

Martin pointed out that the company’s audit found no sign of a breach, but the Mueller report’s explicitly mentioned the electronic poll book company.

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Pierluigi Paganini

(SecurityAffairs – North Carolina, hacking)

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