voting in california in 2012 (Joseph Sohm/Shutterstock.com)

Wyden wants clarity on e-pollbook failure

Was an intrusion by Russian hackers into the network of an American voting technology company related to a breakdown of its electronic pollbook systems?

In a May 8 letter to the CEO of VR Systems, Sen. Ron Wyden (D-Ore.)  expressed concerns about the company's claims that its e-pollbook system had never experienced a breach when the Mueller report revealed "that Russia infected your network with malware."

Wyden is concerned because e-pollbook software made by VR Systems "catastrophically" failed on Election Day 2016 in a number of Durham County, N.C., voting precincts where voters ended up being turned away. While e-pollbooks do not count or tally vote totals, they help election officials check voter eligibility.

The Mueller report claimed that Russian hackers successfully installed malware inside the company's network, using it as a foothold to launch more phishing attacks against state and local governments in the weeks leading up to the 2016 elections.

Lawyers for VR Systems have claimed the attackers never got further than a failed phishing attempt.

As recently as April, the company had denied that its systems were successfully hacked and claimed the 2016 e-pollbook failures in North Carolina were due to user error.

Wyden is seeking information on whether any government agency has ever forensically examined the computers used in Durham County in 2016, the evidentiary basis for the company's claim that it hasn't experienced a security breach and other details about the firm's security posture.

"Given the voting problems caused by the failure of e-pollbooks manufactured by your company in November 2016, the American people have a right to know if there was any connection to the Russian cyberattack against your company three months earlier," Wyden wrote.

This article was first posted to FCW, a sibling site to GCN.

About the Author

Derek B. Johnson is a senior staff writer at FCW, covering governmentwide IT policy, cybersecurity and a range of other federal technology issues.

Prior to joining FCW, Johnson was a freelance technology journalist. His work has appeared in The Washington Post, GoodCall News, Foreign Policy Journal, Washington Technology, Elevation DC, Connection Newspapers and The Maryland Gazette.

Johnson has a Bachelor's degree in journalism from Hofstra University and a Master's degree in public policy from George Mason University. He can be contacted at djohnson@fcw.com, or follow him on Twitter @derekdoestech.

Click here for previous articles by Johnson.


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