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Photo: Joshua Lott/AFP/Getty Images

In Kansas, Finney County had to shut down its election network and its entire county computer network after a malware attack launched via a phishing email with a bad link, two county officials told Axios following Vice President Mike Pence's remarks on the incident last week.

Why it matters: This complete shutdown shows the disruptive power that a single email with a bad attachment or link can have, even if only one person clicks on it and even if the malware doesn’t lead to any stolen information. And Finney County doesn’t think its the only target of this kind of phishing and malware attack.

The big picture: Other agencies have said they experienced similar email targeting before the Kansas attack, Finney County communication specialist Sara McClure told Axios.

The impact: The malware versions that are believed to be launched in this case, Emotet and TrickBot, are designed to pilfer information.

  • “To date there are no indications that any citizen’s personal information was impacted nor any evidence that the malware has spread to other networks,” a DHS official told Axios.
  • This kind of attack could interrupt voting if it were to happen closer to, or on the day of, an election.

The county shut off the networks on July 12 to prevent employee access to internet and email, and began cleaning computers in part to get rid of the malware, whether devices were believed to be infected or not. The networks were back up the next day.

  • Finney County has since increased and enhanced its antivirus package, which originally caught the incident. It now has mandated training on clicking links and attachments in emails, and has increased email security to quarantine attachments that may be unexpected or suspicious.

Details:

  • The email that launched the malware came from what appeared to be a real person, but someone who was outside the Finney network, according to McClure. The county does not know the source of the email and was unable to say who clicked on the link.
  • Kansas' secretary of state’s office called in the Department of Homeland Security to work with the county in its response. A DHS official said there is no evidence the issue had spread.

Go deeper

Judge nixes Gulf of Mexico oil leases in climate-focused ruling

Tug boats prepare to tow the semi-submersible drilling platform Noble Danny Adkins through the Port Aransas Channel into the Gulf of Mexico on December 12, 2020 in Port Aransas, Texas. Photo: Tom Pennington/Getty Images

A federal judge on Thursday canceled the Biden administration's late 2021 sale of new oil-and-gas drilling leases in the Gulf of Mexico.

Why it matters: The ruling that the greenhouse gas emissions analysis by the Interior's Bureau of Ocean Energy Management (BOEM) was insufficient is a win for green groups that challenged the decision, as they seek to curb fossil fuel production.

45 million Americans under winter storm watches near New England

Computer model projection showing the winds moving around the powerful East Coast storm on Saturday Jan. 29, 2022. Credit: https://earth.nullschool.net

Nearly 45 million Americans are under winter weather alerts and warnings from North Carolina to northeastern Maine Thursday night, as a major winter storm threatens the region.

Why it matters: It is predicted to be the biggest blizzard since 2018 to strike the Northeast with more than 2 feet of snow possible in parts of eastern Massachusetts, according to the National Weather Service.

2 hours ago - World

Zelensky questions U.S. warnings of "imminent" invasion in Biden call

Biden and Zelensky at the White House last October. Photo: Brendan Smialowski/AFP via Getty

President Biden and Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky had a back-and-forth in their call this evening about just how "imminent" the threat of a Russian invasion might be, according to three sources briefed on the call.

Why it matters: Biden has said previously that he believes Russian President Vladimir Putin will probably "move in" to Ukraine, and White House press secretary Jen Psaki said Thursday afternoon that "an invasion could come at any time."