Inverness, FL–On Monday, a leaked intelligence report written by the National Security Agency confirmed an e-mail received by the Supervisor of Elections in Citrus County a week prior to the November, 2016 elections was in fact a phishing e-mail sent by Russian hackers.
However, according to Elections Supervisor, Susan Gill, the e-mail in question was never opened. Within moments of receiving the e-mail, VR Systems, the third party vendor hired by the Supervisor of Elections to provide e-mail security, informed the office that the e-mail was malicious, and that it should not be opened. A fraudulent e-mail appearing to come from VR Systems was received by several clients the company services. County Supervisors of Elections were notified by the FBI in September of 2016 that possible hacking activities could occur, including Susan Gill’s office. Because of the swift response by VR Systems, election officials never realized the true origin of the e-mail, until Monday’s leak of an intelligence report written by the NSA. “I do not feel Citrus County was intentionally targeted, we were one of many,” Gill said.
In order to clear up the misinformation concerning this incident, Susan Gill agreed to explain the system and process used to protect our elections in Citrus County. Gill explained that the paper ballots are entered into a tabulator, which stands alone in the polling location. This machine is not connected to the internet at any time. The paper ballots are tabulated in the machine after 7 PM, when polls close and all votes have been cast. A card is put through the machine, which in turn prints out a receipt of the total votes, similar to a grocery store receipt, according to Gill. That receipt is then uploaded over a modem to the elections office. “Never, at any time, were Citrus County elections threatened.”
It appears there was a phishing e-mail sent to many elections offices, and those who did not open the e-mail or the attachment were not affected. Citrus County is prepared for such e-mails and has security systems in place. Gill mentioned the security system they use has redundancies built in, so that if someone had opened the attachment in the e-mail, security would have prevented the virus from spreading.
According to Supervisor Gill, the actual votes cast on November 8, 2016 were never in danger of being altered, changed, or deleted in this case.
Suncoast Standard (c) June 8, 2017 at 11:25 AM
Submitted by: Dawn Jaglowski, Investigative Reporter