Some Emailed Absentee Ballot Applications May not be Processed: Cyber Attack


A hacker assault on the computer system of an upstate New York county sparked alarm that some emailed absentee ballot applications could not be accepted, but the State Board of Elections said that total voting would not be impacted.

On Oct. 18, the cyber assault encrypted about 200 Chenango County-operated computers and hackers sought a $450 ransom per computer to decrypt the files, Herman Ericksen, the county’s information security officer, said Monday. “He added,” We are not paying the ransom.

A public statement was issued last week by the county election board urging anybody who had submitted an absentee ballot application by email since Oct. 15 to contact the board to check that it had been sent. The statement said that the cyber attack will not otherwise influence polling because “the board has redundancies in place that will allow the general election to be securely and efficiently conducted.”

“This wasn’t an assault on the voting system,” said John Conklin, spokesman for the State Board of Elections.

To delete the ransomware, Erickson said infected machines are being wiped clean and all software is being reinstalled. For some days, the county’s email system was down but is back in service, he added.

State Cops and the U.S. Erickson said that the Department of Homeland Security is investigating the attack, which seems to have occurred in Hong Kong.

Chenango County is part of central New York ‘s 22nd Congressional District, where Republican Claudia Tenney is in a close fight to retake her U.S. seat. Rep. Anthony Brindisi, a Democrat who defeated her two years ago by less than 4,500 votes.

Mark Funk
Mark Funk is an experienced information security specialist who works with enterprises to mature and improve their enterprise security programs. Previously, he worked as a security news reporter.