"If your goal is to disrupt an election, you don´t need to pick the victor or actually tamper with tally result", said Matt Blaze, a University of Pennsylvania computer science professor who has written on the security of voting machines.
The NSA document did not name any of the states where local officials were targeted by the emails masquerading as being from VR Systems.
Ion Sancho, who retired as Leon County supervisor in December, said he later learned from industry contacts that it was VR Systems.
Hacking elections "has always been thought of as a theoretical possibility, but now we know it is a real threat", said Susan Greenhalgh, a researcher with the Verified Voting Foundation, an election systems monitor.
"Our voting system, our touch screens, our tabulation screens - they're not even hackable because you can't even get to an internet site off of those machines", she said.
The attempted hack came in the form of an email disguised as an updated user guide from that company, VR Systems. The emails included an attached Microsoft Word document infected with malware that appeared to be a user manual but if opened could give hackers wide access to a computer. Shocking because it appears to confirm that an arm of the Russian government tried to interfere with the American voting process a year ago by targeting election vendors, and unsurprising because many security and elections experts had already assumed this to be the case.
According to the documents, the objective of the attack, which occurred last August, was "to obtain information on elections-related software and hardware solutions".
Seminole Supervisor of Elections Michael Ertel uses VR Systems software for voter registration but not the software for identifying voters at the polls, which was the target of the cyberattack attempt. As I've said, this is unsurprising: Cybersecurity researchers have been warning about the lax security and regulation of electronic voting for years, though there has been little in the way of resources, or imperatives, to fix it. We have policies and procedures in effect to protect our customers and our company. Early says VR systems sent out an alert about the phishing scam on November first.
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In a statement released by VR Systems Tuesday afternoon, the company says it took action after it first received reports of fraudulent email.
"If you can manipulate that ballot programming you can often exploit the vulnerabilities", Halderman said, opening the door to vote tampering.
In Floyd County, VR Systems supports electronic pollbooks, which is how voters sign in.
The elections management company that has been implicated in the NSA report through a mention of one of its products is the Florida-based VR Systems.
"But I didn't know that it was a vendor that was contracted with Hart and part of a system we had in place", Sanders said.
Prior to the Secretary of State's call on Tuesday, Sanders said she had heard a report about leaked documents while listening to NPR on her way to work.
If convicted, she could face up to 10 years in prison.
The confidential NSA document dated May 5 was leaked to the online news website The Intercept that same day.
The document, dated May 5, 2017, showed that intelligence collected by the NSA suggested a months-long Russian intelligence cyber effort against the US election and voting infrastructure. The more complicated our system gets, and the fewer guarantees we can make about its integrity, the worse this dilemma becomes.