Federal and state officials investigate attempted breach of Ohio county office after data appears at ‘Big Lie’ symposium

The incident on the workplace of John Hamercheck, who’s president of Ohio’s Lake County Board of Commissioners, concerned somebody plugging a non-public laptop computer into the pc community in Hamercheck’s workplace, in accordance with two individuals briefed on the investigation who spoke on the situation of anonymity. A 3rd supply briefed on the investigation, a US official, confirmed that the investigation centered round a non-public laptop computer getting used on the Lake County Board of Commissioners.

While no delicate info was taken from Hamercheck’s workplace, routine web visitors unrelated to the election captured by the laptop computer was later distributed at an August convention hosted by MyPillow CEO Mike Lindell that promoted false claims that the 2020 presidential election had been stolen, in accordance with the individuals briefed on the investigation. Robert Graham, a cybersecurity knowledgeable who attended the Lindell-hosted convention, instructed CNN that digital copies of laptop recordsdata that have been labeled as coming from Lake County have been distributed on the occasion.

Ohio officers mentioned there have been layers of safety in place to forestall any election-related information from being compromised, and that the Lake County laptop community that accommodates Hamercheck’s workplace just isn’t related to the Board of Elections laptop community.

Numerous specialists and audits have verified that there was no widespread fraud within the election, and that the vote was safe. But the din of disinformation and conspiracy theories from supporters of former President Donald Trump has continued. Some election officers have confronted loss of life threats in what specialists warn is a worrying pattern for American democracy.

The FBI and Ohio officers are investigating the Lake County incident, two of the individuals briefed on the investigation mentioned. The workplace of the Ohio Attorney General can also be investigating, a kind of individuals mentioned.

The Washington Post first reported the May incident at Hamercheck’s workplace.

Hamercheck didn’t reply to a CNN interview request. The FBI declined to remark.

Hamercheck instructed The Washington Post that he had been suggested to not focus on the investigation, and that he was “aware of no criminal activity.”

In 2019, Ohio Secretary of State Frank LaRose issued a directive requiring counties to bolster their cybersecurity by means of coaching and assessments, amongst different measures.

“The cybersecurity protocols put in place in 2019 by the secretary worked and no election data was ever in danger of being compromised,” Rob Nichols, a spokesperson for LaRose, instructed CNN.

The public disclosure of the Lake County episode comes after Colorado Secretary of State Jena Griswold, a Democrat, earlier this yr accused a Republican Mesa County, Colorado, election official of facilitating a safety breach in May. The breach resulted in confidential voting machine login credentials, and forensic pictures of their onerous drives, being revealed in early August on a Telegram channel affiliated with a number one determine of the QAnon motion.

Images from Mesa County additionally have been projected onscreen on the “cyber symposium” convened in South Dakota by Lindell.

The Mesa County incident now could be the topic of a legal probe. The election official, Mesa County Clerk and Recorder Tina Peters, final week mentioned her residence was raided by the FBI. Peters, a Republican, has not been charged with any crime in reference to the Colorado investigation, and, in court docket paperwork, she has denied authorizing any leaks.

Election safety specialists instructed CNN they have been fearful that promoters of false election fraud narratives could be emboldened by these incidents except there have been repercussions.

“If law enforcement doesn’t start charging people, prosecuting and holding them accountable, we are in trouble,” mentioned Amber McReynolds, the previous Denver director of elections.

The US Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency, a federal company that helps election safety efforts, has doubled down on making an attempt to fight election-related disinformation. The Biden administration has tapped Kim Wyman, a Republican former secretary of state of Washington, to guide these efforts, CNN first reported in October.

Matthew Masterson, Wyman’s predecessor on the CISA and a former official within the Ohio secretary of state’s workplace, praised the state’s election safety measures.

“Ohio had the proper protections in place and responded quickly,” Masterson instructed CNN. “Other states should follow their lead as unfortunately this will continue to happen as the grift grows and there remains no accountability for those pushing misinformation about the 2020 election.”


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