How hackers targeted the vote in Florida

Pasco County Supervisor of Elections Brian Corley recalls the October 31 phishing e-mail.  It said it came from VR Systems, a vendor that sells voter registration software. It claimed to have an update. But, it was from a Gmail account not associated with VR Systems at all.

"When elections begin, the cycle, you don't have vendors send you updates," said Corley. "I recall that specifically because early voting had already started in Florida. You wouldn't be getting an update to a manual. That just does not happen in our business. We would have gotten it months in advance."

The second red flag the e-mail raised, Corley said, was a misspelling of the word "modernized." So, Corley did not click on the infected attachment.

Flash forward to this week, when a federal contractor leaked classified documents detailing a Russian military cyber attack on U.S. voting software. Pasco was a county targeted in the 2016 election.

"There clearly appeared to be an attempt. It didn't work," continued Corley. "My colleagues and I around the state and our staff followed the protocols to ensure that we had a good election. I can 100-percent guarantee you that the election administration, as it relates to votes being tabulated, was 100-percent rock solid."

A double-click of that attachment could have led to a domino effect of sorts.

"Once they have entrance now, on to your network, on to your computer, now they can typically go and spread out virally around other machines and start to look and hunt for things," said Steve Hasselbach, a cyber-security expert. 

Hasselbach says while hackers may not have gotten the information they were looking for, they may have taken away the American people's trust in the system -- an unintentional win for them.

"It really is a trust thing for America, not just for Florida. If they can get into those systems, they can instill a level of doubt," said Hasselbach.

"Eroding voter confidence is a huge concern," agreed Corley. "If people don't think their vote counts, and that there's shenanigans, that keeps me up at night."