Russian operatives successfully targeted and hacked “at least one” Florida county government in the run up to the 2016 U.S. presidential election, according to new findings by the Special Counsel Robert Mueller.
The report, published Thursday by the Justice Department, said the county was targeted by the Russian intelligence service, known as the GRU. The hackers sent spearphishing emails to more than 120 email accounts used by county officials responsible for administering the election, the report said.
According to the findings:
In August 2016, GRU officers targeted employees of [REDACTED], a voting technology company that developed software used by numerous U.S. counties to manage voter rolls, and installed malware on the company network… the spearphishing emails contained an attached Word document coded with malicious software (commonly referred to as a Trojan) that permitted the GRU to access the infected computer.
The findings are a significant development from previous reporting that said Florida’s election systems were merely targets of the Russian operatives.
Sen. Bill Nelson (D-FL) was derided after he claimed just days before his eventual re-election that hackers had gained access to the state’s election systems. According to NBC News, some of Nelson’s assertions were based off classified information that was not yet public.
Nelson’s remarks came almost a year after The Intercept published a classified document — later discovered to have been sent by since-jailed NSA whistleblower Reality Winner — showing that intelligence pointed to a concerted effort by the GRU to target election infrastructure. The NSA said the hackers sent to state government officials emails impersonating voting technology company VR Systems.
The Orlando Sentinel confirmed Thursday following the release of Mueller’s report’s that Volusia County was sent infected emails containing malware, suggesting Volusia County — north of Orlando — may have been the target.
Mueller’s report confirmed that the FBI investigated the incident.
The office of Florida’s secretary of state said that Florida’s voter registration system “was and remains secure,” and “official results or vote tallies were not changed.”
Two years later, following the 2018 midterm elections, the Justice Department and Homeland Security said there was “no evidence” of vote hacking or tampering.