Foreign hackers were able to gain access to voter-related information in four states by targeting not only government systems, but also by breaking into computers associated with private contractors hired to handle voter information, ABC News has learned. As ABC News first reported Thursday, hackers have recently tried to infiltrate voter registration systems in nearly half of the states across the country –- a significantly larger cyber-assault than U.S. officials have been willing to concede. And while officials have publicly admitted Illinois and Arizona had their systems compromised, officials have yet to acknowledge that information related to at least two other states’ voters has also been exposed. Hackers working on behalf of the Russian government are suspected in the onslaught against election-related systems, according to sources with knowledge of the matter.
Sources told ABC News that –- beyond the Illinois and Arizona incidents disclosed in August -– information on voters in Florida was also recently compromised by hackers. ABC News could not determine the fourth state whose voters had some of their information exposed.
The voter information was exposed after cyber-operatives gained entry to at least one computer associated with a private company hired to administer voter information, the sources said.
A simple “phishing” scheme –- with a malicious link or attachment sent in an email –- is likely how it all started, one source said. “The attack was successful only in the sense that they gained access to the database, but they didn’t manipulate any of the voter [information] in the database,” the source said.