110816-Malvina Hunt Votes5.JPG

Malvina Hunt, 101, sits down to make her selections on the ballot before placing her vote at an Auburn polling on Election Day 2016. 

Kevin Rivoli, The Citizen

A company that provided software to the Cayuga County Board of Elections was targeted by Russian hackers prior to the 2016 presidential election. 

VR Systems, an election management software supplier, has been named in documents linked to a case involving a National Security Agency contractor who allegedly leaked information to The Intercept, an online news outlet, about Russia's meddling in last year's elections. 

The GRU, Russia's foreign military intelligence agency, targeted employees at VR Systems and at least one was compromised. That intrusion allowed hackers to target local government officials in several states.

Thomas Connolly, a state Board of Elections spokesman, said there's no evidence that malicious activity impacted any of New York's counties or election systems. 

The software provided by VR Systems is known as EViD, which is an acronym for the Electronic Voter Identification system. Connolly said the use of EViD software in New York dates back to 2011. Two counties — Onondaga and Orange — launched pilot projects for electronic poll books, which allows inspectors to check voter registration information in a digital format instead of the traditional paper poll books. 

The original provider of the software was Decision Works LLC. The elections management division of Decision Works was sold to VR Systems in 2014, according to Connolly. 

Last year, four counties — Cayuga, Cortland, Onondaga and Orange — used a derivative of the EViD software at poll sites with multiple election districts. Connolly said the application "did not contain any information not already publicly available regarding voters, did not have access to voter signatures, did not collect information on individual voters looked up and was never connected to the official voter database in any of those counties." 

Katie Lacey, the Democratic elections commissioner in Cayuga County, said there were eight laptops with the EViD software used at eight polling locations on Election Day. She noted that the electronic version of the poll books was a duplicate of the paper records. 

The county's use of the software, Lacey said, is to ensure poll workers are prepared if the state shifts to electronic-only poll books. 

While Cayuga County's elections board hasn't experienced any cyber-attacks, Lacey acknowledged that the attack on VR Systems and reports of Russian hacking is a concern. 

"This has got to wake everybody up," she said. "It's certainly a threat." 

The state Board of Elections has addressed cybersecurity issues with local county officials in partnership with federal and state law enforcement agencies. Information on potential threats was distributed to county agencies during last year's election. 

Connolly said there's no reason to believe the state's election systems were compromised. 

"Ensuring the integrity of elections and preserving citizen confidence in the democratic process in New York is part of the state board's mission and one which has grown to include cybersecurity issues," he said. "We stand ready to work with our federal, state and local partners to ensure that we stay vigilant in protecting elections and election systems from potential and existing threats." 

Online producer Robert Harding can be reached at (315) 282-2220 or robert.harding@lee.net. Follow him on Twitter @robertharding.

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