Reported hacking attempt at Contra Costa Co. Election Division foiled

MARTINEZ, Calif. (KGO) -- A still-unknown hacker tried to gain access to Contra Costa County's elections office internet system last week and now both the state and federal government are investigating.

After the 2016 election and reports of Russian hacking, California election offices worked to harden their defenses with better cyber security. A hacking attempt at the Contra Costa County Elections and Registrars Office appeared to have "patterns," officials say, that matched prior attempts at other government offices across the country so the incident moved on up to the Department of Homeland Security.

It happened last Thursday when a single email from a known sender was opened by an employee. That triggered a cyber security alert that the underlying IP address was actually NOT from a known source, as it was professed to be, so the system was immediately locked down.

Joe Canciamilla, the Contra Costa County registrar, said, "We decided to get the cyber security task force from the Secretary of State's Office involved and they've since also involved homeland security. Clearly there are ongoing attempts to get into sensitive government systems... whether it's just to cause havoc, or it's to undermine confidence, or it's an attempt to gather information."

This particular hacking attempt was foiled and no information was compromised in the Contra Costa email system. A new state-of-the-art voting system was never vulnerable in the first place since it is not connected to the internet.

Canciamilla said he knows of no other election offices in California that reported a similar hacking attempt. He said, "Unfortunately, it's easy to ghost IP addresses so it's going to take a while to figure out exactly where this originated from. It's too early to say what the motivation was. "

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