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No evidence of tampering in New Mexico elections

Copyright © 2017 Albuquerque Journal

SANTA FE – New Mexico election officials say they have no reason to believe Russian hackers breached – or tried to breach – state voter databases or computer systems during last year’s election cycle.

Russian hackers reportedly hit voting systems in a total of 39 states during the summer and fall of 2016 in an apparent attempt to meddle in U.S. elections. Although the cyberattacks may have hit roughly four out of five states, there is no evidence of actual tampering with voting or ballot counting in any state, according to a Bloomberg Politics report.

The cyberattacks have prompted a federal investigation and calls for additional sanctions against Russia.

State Bureau of Elections Director Kari Fresquez said officials in the Secretary of State’s Office have reviewed internal systems and don’t believe New Mexico was one of the states hit in the cyberattacks, which have in some cases been described as “spear phishing.” The practice involves sending emails that appear to be from trusted sources in an effort to gain information such as passwords from the recipients.

“We certainly don’t have any information there’s been any issues in New Mexico,” Fresquez told the Journal.

She also said the state’s paper ballot system and an internal voter database that is not connected to the internet provide safeguards from hackers, adding, “We have a lot of protections in New Mexico.”

The Bloomberg report said states targeted in the cyberattacks included Florida, California and Illinois, where investigators found signs hackers had tried to delete or change voter data.

Meanwhile, John Blair, deputy secretary of state, said New Mexico election officials have not been contacted by federal authorities about potential hacking carried out by Russians.

“We have not received any confirmation from the Department of Homeland Security that our systems have been breached,” Blair said.

Federal agencies have been investigating outside hacks into state voting systems, and a report attributed to the National Security Agency claims hackers obtained information from a software company that had contracts to manage voter registration in at least eight states.

The hackers allegedly used the information they got to send emails to more than 100 elections officials around the country in an attempt to access their voting systems, according to The Associated Press.

Neither the New Mexico Secretary of State’s Office nor any of the state’s 33 county clerks use the software company in question, Florida-based VR Systems, Blair said.

President Donald Trump and top officials in his administration have denied colluding with Russian officials to help Trump’s 2016 campaign.

U.S. Attorney General Jeff Sessions told members of the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence this week that such assertions were an “appalling and detestable lie,” but he also refused to say whether he had ever discussed the Russia investigation with Trump.

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