FBI Probe into Mike Lindell after he shares Ohio County’s computers’ data

Federal and state investigators are looking into an attempt to hack into an Ohio county’s election network that bears striking similarities to an incident earlier this year in Colorado, in which government officials assisted an outsider in gaining access to the county voting system in order to find fraud.

Data gathered in both cases was disseminated during an August “cyber symposium” on election fraud held by MyPillow CEO Mike Lindell, a former Trump friend who has spent millions of dollars spreading bogus accusations that the 2020 election was rigged.

Mike Lindell of Lindell Recovery Network via the LRN Facebook page

According to two people with knowledge of the event who spoke on the condition of anonymity due to ongoing investigations, the attempted breach in Ohio happened on May 4 inside the county office of John Hamercheck (R), chairman of the Lake County Board of Commissioners. Although no sensitive data was obtained, state and county officials determined that a private laptop was plugged into the county network in Hamercheck’s office, and that the routine network traffic captured by the computer was circulated at the same Lindell conference as the data from the Colorado breach.

The occurrences in Ohio and Colorado, taken together, indicate an increase in assaults on the nation’s voting systems by individuals who have accepted Trump’s baseless assertions that the 2020 election would be plagued with fraud. Now, some Trump supporters advocating for legal challenges and political audits are now targeting local authorities in an attempt to acquire access to electoral systems, which might jeopardize election security.

“Trump” via Gage Skidmore is licensed with CC BY 2.0. To view a copy of this license, visit https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0/

An FBI spokesperson said Thursday that the agency is looking into the incident in Lake County, but she refused to elaborate. Investigators are attempting to discover if someone on the fifth level of the Lake County government building entered the computer network inappropriately and whether any laws were broken.

According to a spokesperson for Ohio Secretary of State Frank LaRose (R), investigators think a government employee seems to have helped the attempted intrusion of the Lake County electoral network.

Frank LaRose via his Facebook mobile uploads

When asked if he was aware of the attempted breach or participated in it during a phone interview, Hamercheck replied he was told not to discuss the probe. “I’m aware of no criminal activity,” Hamercheck said, and added: “I have absolute confidence in our board of elections and our IT people.”

According to persons aware with Frank’s participation, who spoke on the condition of anonymity to detail private talks, county officials in both states — including Hamercheck — addressed charges of election fraud with Douglas Frank, an Ohio-based scientist who has done work for Lindell.

Mike Lindell via Gage Skidmore is licensed with CC BY 2.0. To view a copy of this license, visit https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0/

Frank, who claims to have discovered secret algorithms used to rig the 2020 election, has been traveling the country trying to persuade election officials that the vote was riddled with fraud — and that they should join the effort to uncover it, he said in a series of interviews with The Washington Post.

In recent months, Frank has told The Washington Post that he has visited “over 30 states” and spoken with over 100 election supervisors. He refused to specify how many local election officials he had convinced to support his cause. “I deliberately protect my clerks. I don’t want anybody to know who they are,” Frank said.

Mike Lindell via Gage Skidmore is licensed with CC BY 2.0. To view a copy of this license, visit https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0/

Lindell said that, although he has employed Frank for various projects, he does not sponsor Frank’s speaking appearances throughout the nation and had no knowledge of what occurred in the Mesa County or Lake County election offices. “I have no idea what you’re talking about,” he said.

In April, Frank drove to Grand Junction, Colorado, where he presented his case both publicly and privately to Tina Peters, Mesa County clerk, and many of her coworkers. He stated that his presentation convinced Peters of the need of investigating whether fraud happened, and that he later linked her with someone in Lindell’s group who he thought might assist her.

Tina Peters, Mesa County Clerk and Recorder, via her Facebook page

Colorado election authorities have now accused Peters of bringing an outsider into Mesa County voting offices to copy the hard drives of machines produced by Dominion Voting Systems, a firm included in Trump and his followers’ conspiracy theories.

A state court barred Peters from monitoring the next municipal elections in October, citing her attempts to replicate the hard disks. FBI officials searched her house and the homes of many of her colleagues on Wednesday as part of an investigation into alleged wire fraud and computer crimes.

Tina Peters, Mesa County Clerk and Recorder, via her Facebook page

Peters has previously stated that she has been targeted by strong powers who are attempting to prevent her from discovering the truth. A representative for Peters’ legal defense fund told The Washington Post this week that the searches represented “a level of weaponization of the Justice Department we haven’t seen since the McCarthy era.”

According to a source familiar with the event who spoke on the condition of anonymity due to ongoing investigations, Frank also participated in a meeting earlier this year with Hamercheck, the Lake County, Ohio, commissioner.

Tina Peters, Mesa County Clerk and Recorder, via her Facebook page

In an interview, Frank claimed he had no recollection of speaking with Hamercheck and had no record of the conversation. He said that he has met so many individuals in the last six months that he cannot remember them all. However, Frank said that the version of events detailed in Lake County seemed “plausible” since it “exactly the model that we did with Tina.”

“Do I remember that call? No,” he said of the Hamercheck conversation. “Does it sound like me? Yes.”

Tina Peters, Mesa County Clerk and Recorder, via her Facebook page

Peters has previously stated that she has been targeted by strong powers who are attempting to prevent her from discovering the truth. A representative for Peters’ legal defense fund told The Washington Post this week that the searches represented “a level of weaponization of the Justice Department we haven’t seen since the McCarthy era.”

According to a source familiar with the event who spoke on the condition of anonymity due to ongoing investigations, Frank also participated in a meeting earlier this year with Hamercheck, the Lake County, Ohio, commissioner.

Mike Lindell from his social media posting

Officials from all three states, as well as independent cyber specialists, assessed that the network data — known as packet captures, or PCAPs — did not include any sensitive information from a secured network.

According to county authorities, the data from Clark County — home of Las Vegas — was collected through the county’s guest wifi network. Rob Graham, a cybersecurity specialist who attended the Lindell conference and studied the data, claimed it was captured on December 1, 2020, using a laptop configured to capture just its own activities and not county network traffic.

Mike Lindell via Gage Skidmore is licensed with CC BY 2.0. To view a copy of this license, visit https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0/

According to Ohio state investigators, the attempted hack in Lake County likewise generated little data, which might indicate that the person or individuals involved lacked technological skill.

Officials in Ohio evaluated the data collected in Lake County and swiftly found that many levels of protection prevented election information or equipment from being compromised. The network connection in Hamercheck’s office connects to the county government network, but the county Board of Elections maintains its own network behind its own firewall that recognizes only approved devices.

Mike Lindell via Gage Skidmore is licensed with CC BY 2.0. To view a copy of this license, visit https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0/

“We are thrilled that our infrastructure stayed strong,” said Ross McDonald, head of the Lake County Board of Elections, adding that the county is awaiting the findings of the state and federal investigations.

LaRose, who handles election administration throughout Ohio’s 88 counties, submitted the attempted breach to federal, state, and local authorities after his office examined it.

Tina Peters, Mesa County Clerk and Recorder, via her Facebook page

“It’s concerning that somebody would — especially somebody in a government office, somebody who is an elected official, or somebody who’s part of county government — would not realize all of those safeguards exist and would try to engage in some sort of a vigilante investigation,” LaRose said. “The good news is that our system of cyber security in Ohio is among the best in the nation.”

Mesa County network data were collected in various sessions over the period of around four hours in May, about three weeks after the attempted breach in Ohio and on the same day a Mesa County voting machine hard disk was duplicated, similarly to Lake County.

Mike Lindell via Gage Skidmore is licensed with CC BY 2.0. To view a copy of this license, visit https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0/

Local, state, and federal officials started looking into the alleged breach in Mesa soon after Lindell’s August symposium, when copies of hard drives from county voting machines were provided.

During the same month, authorities secured search warrants to study Peter’s cellphone data, collect DNA samples from voting machines, remove Dominion equipment from Mesa County facilities, and get documents to establish who gained access to the secure tabulation room after Frank’s visit in April.

The FBI raided Peters’ and many of her allies’ houses this week, including Sherronna Bishop, a conservative activist and former campaign manager for Rep. Lauren Boebert (R-Colo.), who introduced Frank during his public speech in Grand Junction.

Lindell discussed the searches on Tuesday’s episode of “War Room,” a podcast hosted by former White House adviser Stephen K. Bannon. Bishop accused the FBI of using “brute force” in executing the search warrant at her house, including using a battering ram to unlock her door and handcuffing her in front of her children. She said that she was “available and transparent to any organization that wanted to speak with me” and accused the Justice Department of “terrorizing parents.”

Steve Bannon via screenshot from YouTube video https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=FJoRRLji5IE

The Colorado attorney general’s office responded in a statement, claiming that “this judicially authorized search was executed in a professional and lawful manner conducted authorized law enforcement operations… in support of an ongoing investigation,” but refused to say more.

According to details she shared in an interview with right-wing media personality Brannon Howse, the search warrants left at Bishop’s home indicate that the FBI is investigating potential crimes such as intentional damage to a protected computer, wire fraud, conspiracy to cause intentional damage to a protected computer, and conspiracy to commit wire fraud.

Conan Hayes a few years ago from a social media account

Conan James Hayes, a former pro surfer whom Frank identified in an interview with The Post as a “white hat hacker” who has done projects for Lindell and has been responsible for gathering and evaluating cyber evidence of fraud, is one of Frank and Lindell’s associates. Lindell stated that he employed Hayes this year for various “piecework” assignments linked to researching electoral fraud, but none included assisting local authorities in obtaining data from their networks or machines.

When asked whether Hayes was engaged in acquiring data from Lake and Mesa counties, Frank answered, “I should probably not say. That’s just me being, I think, prudent.”

Conan Hayes via the Twitter account under @@get_innocuous

Hayes’ name was also mentioned at the Lindell symposium, when Ron Watkins, the former moderator of the 8kun message board, which advocated the QAnon conspiracy theory, said that Hayes may have taken the hard drives from Mesa County.

A few seconds later, Watkins claimed Hayes “did have authority to remove the hard drive, but did not have permission to upload it.”

Conan Hayes Surfing screenshot

Hayes, according to Watkins’ lawyer, was Watkins’ source for the hard disks.

According to Graham and Harri Hursti, cybersecurity professionals who attended the Lindell symposium and inspected the hard-drive copies, metadata from the cloned Mesa County hard drives indicate that the copies were produced by someone using the identification “cjh.” Those initials are the same as Hayes’.

According to Graham, the Clark County data was also recorded by a device known as “cjh’s MacBook Pro (2).”

Via Dominion Voting Systems website

Metadata demonstrates that the data in both Lake and Mesa counties were acquired by the same sort of gaming laptop, with the same software and Windows operating system.

Hayes was mentioned in court filings as one of seven persons who copied Dominion hard disks as part of a complaint brought last autumn by a local real estate agent who alleged election fraud in rural Antrim County, Michigan. According to a report given by the plaintiff in that lawsuit in December, the hard drives, which were duplicated with the court’s authorization, purportedly proved that Dominion computers were rigged.

The report’s key premise was quickly discredited by experts, including the Department of Homeland Security, but it was referenced by Trump and his friends as they attempted to reverse President Biden’s lawful triumph. In May, a state court dismissed the lawsuit.



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