Tallahassee-based election software company says system was never compromised

By: Associated Press
June 19, 2017

DAVENPORT, Fla. (AP) -- The chief operating officer of a Tallahassee-based elections-software company says its computer systems were never hacked, despite phishing attempts.

VR Systems COO Ben Martin told Florida election supervisors during a presentation Monday that his company's systems were never compromised.

A leaked National Security Agency report suggested that hackers stole information from VR Systems, which provides voter-registration software. The report said the information was used to send phishing emails to election officials nationwide.

Martin says the information didn't come from his company. He says VR Systems received a message from a customer last November that the customer had received a phishing email that appeared to be from VR Systems.

Martin says upon closer inspection, it was an email trying to appear like it came from the company.


By: Erin Lisch | WCTV Eyewitness News
June 6, 2017

TALLAHASSEE, Fla. (WCTV) -- No vote tampering, that's according the Leon County Supervisor of Elections after the voting system they use is targeted by Russian hackers.

Leon County Supervisor of Elections Mark Earley said, "There has been no hacking or even attempted hacking of Leon County systems, voter registration, or vote tabulation systems."

News of this attempted hack bringing a national story, right into our own backyard.

VR Systems says this all started with an email from a fake account using a Gmail address. It asked users to click on an attachment.

That has cyber security experts urging you to start thinking like a hacker.

These days it seems you're always connected from your phones, tablets and of course computers.

As our society goes digital so are hackers gaining access to sensitive information, especially through email.

When asked about these types of emails Tallahassee resident Joy Williams said, "I have seen a couple trickle in here and there, but usually I’m pretty good at which one I try not to open."

Seeing these types of emails before Johnathan Watkins said, "When I see how you've won I just delete it or put it in my spam because nothing in life is free, everything costs except for your mother’s love."

Pew Research data shows 64 percent of Americans will experience a major data breach.

Experts say hackers use phishing as an attempt to find out personal information. They also say most of the time these emails look like they're coming from a real company.

Cyber Security Expert Charlene Watson said, "(They need) just find enough information to craft an email and that looks like a legitimate email."

Experts say phishers use scare tactics write generic requests, and ask for confidential information.

"No one that is a legitimate service a legitimate company a legitimate entity will ask for your log on credentials," said Watson.

With security evolving so are the hackers, meaning it's up to all of us to keep our security features up to date.

"Constantly have discussions like to this to remediate these type of things and safeguard so things can be fair and just," said Watkins.

Using safeguards to avoid becoming a victim.

VR Systems also says it keeps up to date with state officials to address these types of threats.

The company says it doesn't believe any of their clients clicked the attachment in that e-mail.


By: WCTV Eyewitness News
June 6, 2017

TALLAHASSEE, Fla. (WCTV) -- In a classified document leaked by a federal government contractor, the National Security Agency concludes that a Tallahassee-based voter registration software company was the victim of hacking by unknown Russians prior to the 2016 election.

The five page document says VR Systems was hacked by someone opening a Microsoft document that allowed intruders to set up email accounts and contact the election vendor's clients.

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 think the important thing for the public is that the story is not directed toward our ability to cast and count ballots. Unless, someone goes in and begins to remove names from the voter registration system, when people show up to vote, forcing them to cast a provisional ballot or something that nature.”

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

FBI agents briefed Florida elections supervisors of the threat last August.

In a statement, Secretary of State Ken Detzner said, “Florida’s online elections databases and voting systems remained secure in 2016. We have multiple safeguards in place to protect against elections fraud and prevent any possible hacking attempts from being successful.”


By: CBS News
June 5, 2017

TALLAHASSEE, Fla. (CBS) -- The Justice Department has charged a federal government contractor, 25-year-old Reality Leigh Winner, with removing classified material from a government facility and leaking it to an unidentified news outlet.

This comes on the same day the online news site 'The Intercept' posted a report that Russian government hackers carried out a cyberattack against one U.S. voting software vendor last August, and launched a spear-phishing attack targeting local organizations days before the 2016 presidential election.

This information was included in a highly classified report by the National Security Agency. CBS News confirmed the authenticity of the report Monday after the five page document was published by 'The Intercept'.

According to a DOJ press release, the FBI arrested Winner at her home on Saturday, and she appeared in federal court in Augusta, Georgia on Monday.

The criminal complaint alleges that Winner, who had worked as a contractor with Pluribus International Corporation since February, printed out and took classified intelligence reporting from an intelligence community agency.

The the complaint says Winner mailed the intelligence reporting to an online news outlet a few days later.

Winner is still in federal custody, and she will have a detention hearing on Thursday.