Feds confirm Russian hackers visited election websites for 2 local counties

Feds confirm Russian hackers visited election websites for 2 local counties

ATLANTA — Cobb County Elections Director Janine Eveler admits she’s worried but not panicked after getting confirmation from the Department of Homeland Security, through state election officials, that a recently indicted Russian operative visited a public Cobb County website for election-related job postings in October 2016.

Earlier this month, the Justice Department revealed charges from Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s office going after 12 Russian intelligence officers for interfering in the presidential campaign.

There's no evidence that Russian operatives hacked or compromised either of those county election-related websites.

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Still, confirmation of the visits was enough for the secretary of state's office to issue an urgent bulletin to all 159 Georgia counties.

“I was very surprised to get the call from the Secretary of State’s office, yes,” Eveler said.

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Eveler admits she’s worried but not panicked after getting confirmation from the Department of Homeland Security – through state election officials – that a recently indicted Russian operative visited a public Cobb County website for election-related job postings in October 2016.

"We didn't hire any Russians, please rest assured," Eveler told Channel 2 investigative reporter Aaron Diamant. "I think they're probably looking for locations, maybe where we have our equipment. None of that was in the job posting. It may have been just a description of the job, maybe they were hoping to get some technical information. None of that is in the job."

The state also confirmed the same operative visited an official candidate information website in Fulton County.

Fulton county’s election director talked to Diamant by phone Tuesday, saying:

“Anybody can visit our website. It would concern me if there was evidence of something nefarious done, but all indications from DHS are it was just a visit.”

“Visiting a website is not hacking a website,” said GA Secretary of State spokeswoman Candice Broce.

Diamant obtained a copy of the urgent bulletin sent to all Georgia counties. It says, in part:

“The federal government does not have information as to what actions the operative took in order ‘to identify vulnerabilities,’ but they assume that the operative was conducting research designed to assist future potential operation.”

The state told Fulton and Cobb counties that the feds have no indication the county websites were compromised.

As for the confirmation of Russian activity: "It is a serious concern, and it’s something that we’ve been on top of,” Broce told Diamant.

The secretary of state's office told Diamant it has worked with a private cybersecurity vendor since 2014 to keep an eye on the state's network and has partnered with DHS to share information and provide cybersecurity training to local elections offices