Official: Washington election departments targets for hacking

RENTON, Wash. -- As many as 100 election departments from cities and counties across the United States may have been penetrated by Russian hackers.

That's the revelation from a report allegedly from the National Security Agency, according to an online media outlet The Intercept, which published what it claims to be a classified report that said Russian agents at the direction of the government attacked a voting machine company and then tried to infiltrate local election boards. The FBI on Tuesday arrested a federal contractor for allegedly having leaked the NSA report to The Intercept.

The scheme did not appear to target the Secretary of State’s Office in Washington, but the King County Elections board admitted they have been probed and targeted this past year. They just don't know who is behind it.

“We know some did happen in Washington state. That`s not uncommon and none of those were actually successful,” said Kendall Hodson with the county.

The blunt admission is also a brush with the new normal, but our state may be in a safer spot than most.

The counting room at the Renton headquarters uses its own internal network with zero connection to the outside world.

It's one single location where you would have to physically break in to change anything.

“We have a paper trail for every single person who voted,” Hodson said.

The data is added up inside a server room that fewer than 10 people can access through biometric scanning.

Yes, it’s digital, of course, but to avoid keystroke copying software on a USB drive -- they go full 1990s and burn a compact disc with the vote totals.

Then it's finally uploaded.

That's a pretty un-hackable process.

The voter rolls are a little different, however.

“They`re two completely separate systems,” Hodson said.

While registration data is in online systems, there are firewalls. Hodson says they also do frequent checks on numbers to see if anything has changed.

“So if all of a sudden, we were like, ‘strange, we have all of these people who suddenly disappeared, or something unusual happened,’ that`s something that we would flag immediately,” she said.

The Intercept’s reporting quoted the alleged report saying Russian intentions were clear: “…to undermine public faith in the US democratic process, denigrate Secretary (Hillary) Clinton, and harm her electability and potential presidency.”

Russia has denied the accusations.

Erich Ebel, with the Secretary of State’s Office, said in a statement:

“The reports are regarding an alleged Russian hacking of VR Systems, a Florida-based election systems provider. This is not a vendor used in Washington State and we have no reports of attempted phishing related to this incident.”

The office also provided details about security on its website.