A records request conducted by The Intercept revealed that Russian hackers attempted to breach at least one state's voting system by impersonating a Florida-based election technology company — but used a Gmail address to do so.
Previous reporting by The Intercept revealed that the National Security Agency implicated Russia in hacking attempts like the one sent to voting officials in North Carolina and at least 38 others states in the lead-up to the 2016 presidential election. The NSA believed Russia military intelligence groups were behind those hacking attempts.
In a screenshot of an email from Tallahassee-based VR systems provided to The Intercept from the state of North Carolina, the company warned its users that any email coming from a Gmail address was not legitimate — but as the report noted, the phony email "could have easily tricked less scrupulous users."
The November 1, 2016 email included an attachment to a "malware-packed" Microsoft Word document, and the official email from VR Systems implored users not to open the attachment.
The report also noted that "email@example.com," the Gmail address used in the hacking attempt, "matches an address cited in the NSA report as having been created by Russian government hackers, although in the NSA report the address was rendered with a period, as 'firstname.lastname@example.org.'"
"The timing of VR Systems’ security alert is also in line with the NSA’s reporting," the report continued, "which indicated that the email attack occurred on either October 31 or November 1 of 2016."