RUSSIAN INVESTIGATION | Gov. Hogan asks MD election board to look into network security

The Annapolis home of ByteGrid LLC, a vendor for the Maryland State Board of Elections that has ties to a Russian oligarch

ANNAPOLIS, Md. (WBFF) - Maryland officials are investigating a Russian investor's link to a Maryland Board of Elections vendor.

The vendor has a five year contract with the state to run software for the elections system, including voter registration.

The contract began in 2014. In 2015, the company was purchased by ByteGrid Holdings LLC. State officials say they were not aware that a primary investor with ByteGrid, had Russian ties.

House Speaker Michael Busch said the FBI revealed the discovery to them. He said Vladimir Potanin also goes by the name Gerald Banks.

Busch said: “There will be due diligence done on whether there has been a breach of if we need to go in a different direction.”

Maryland Senate President Mike Miller said: "We felt it imperative that our constituents know that a Russian oligarch has purchased our election machinery and we need to be on top of it and ensure our constituents that everything is on the up and up".


Four FBI agents told state lawmakers there was no indication of criminal activity. However, Governor Hogan wants it investigated by Federal Home Land Security.

Gov. Larry Hogan released the following statement:

"It was with concern that I learned that information provided to the Maryland State Board of Elections by federal law enforcement this week indicates that a vendor contracted by the Board to provide a number of services, including voter registration infrastructure, had been acquired by a parent company with financial ties to a Russian national.

"While the information relayed to us did not indicate that any wrongdoing or criminal acts have been discovered, we are fast approaching an election in November, and even the appearance of the potential for bad actors to have any influence on our election infrastructure could undermine public trust in the integrity of our election system. That is why it is imperative that the State Board of Elections take immediate and comprehensive action to evaluate the security of our system and take any and all necessary steps to address any vulnerabilities.

"As an immediate step, the President of the Senate, the Speaker of the House, and I have written a letter to Secretary of Homeland Security Kirstjen Nielsen to collectively request that the DHS Office of Cybersecurity and Communications provide the state with technical assistance to evaluate the network utilized by the Maryland State Board of Elections, including auditing the integrity of the network.

"We will continue to closely monitor the situation in the coming days and weeks to ensure that all Maryland voters can have faith in the integrity of our election system."

The men said they have asked federal officials to help the State Board of Elections review the system to ensure there have been no breaches.”

ByteGrid has a data center in Annapolis. The company has a $7.6 million dollar contract with the state of Maryland.

In response to FOX45’S Questions late Friday, Bytegrid’s Annie Eissler, Chief Marketing Officer issued this statement:

“ByteGrid Holdings LLC maintains secure and compliant IT hosting infrastructure for companies and organizations that value data privacy and protection. We stand by our commitment to security in everything we do, and do not share information about who our customers are and what we do for them. Because it is a government contract, information related to our relationship with the Maryland State Board of Elections is publicly available and we encourage you to read the publicly available documents. ByteGrid is managed and run by seasoned Internet and IT industry leaders. ByteGrid's investors have no involvement or control in company operations.”



The state Board of Elections was "not the state election office mentioned in the indictment.... [and] no Maryland election official has used or is using services provided by the vendor referenced in the indictment."

Maryland was one of the states with "suspicious online activities" prior to the 2016 presidential election, and, "in August 2016, we saw some unusual activity on the State’s online voter registration and ballot request system and immediately responded," said Donna Duncan, assistant deputy for election policy for the State Board of Elections, in a statement.

After log files were provided to the FBI, a state cybersecurity vendor and another cybersecurity firm, all concluded that there was no evidence of a breach to the online registration and ballot request system.

Hogan said in a statement: "It was with concern that I learned that information provided to the Maryland State Board of Elections by federal law enforcement this week indicates that a vendor contracted by the Board to provide a number of services, including voter registration infrastructure, had been acquired by a parent company with financial ties to a Russian national. While the information relayed to us did not indicate that any wrongdoing or criminal acts have been discovered, we are fast approaching an election in November, and even the appearance of the potential for bad actors to have any influence on our election infrastructure could undermine public trust in the integrity of our election system. That is why it is imperative that the State Board of Elections take immediate and comprehensive action to evaluate the security of our system and take any and all necessary steps to address any vulnerabilities. As an immediate step, the President of the Senate, the Speaker of the House, and I have written a letter to Secretary of Homeland Security Kirstjen Nielsen to collectively request that the DHS Office of Cybersecurity and Communications provide the state with technical assistance to evaluate the network utilized by the Maryland State Board of Elections, including auditing the integrity of the network. We will continue to closely monitor the situation in the coming days and weeks to ensure that all Maryland voters can have faith in the integrity of our election system."

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