Russian Election Hacking Was Very Serious and Very Widespread

Alexei Druzhinin/Planet Pix via ZUMA

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A few days ago the Intercept got hold of an NSA document outlining Russian plans to hack directly into voting operations throughout the US:

Russian General Staff Main Intelligence Directorate actors … executed cyber espionage operations against a named U.S. company in August 2016, evidently to obtain information on elections-related software and hardware solutions. … The actors likely used data obtained from that operation to … launch a voter registration-themed spear-phishing campaign targeting U.S. local government organizations.

Today Bloomberg reports that this was just the tip of the iceberg:

Russia’s cyberattack on the U.S. electoral system before Donald Trump’s election was far more widespread than has been publicly revealed, including incursions into voter databases and software systems in almost twice as many states as previously reported.

In Illinois, investigators found evidence that cyber intruders tried to delete or alter voter data. The hackers accessed software designed to be used by poll workers on Election Day, and in at least one state accessed a campaign finance database. Details of the wave of attacks, in the summer and fall of 2016, were provided by three people with direct knowledge of the U.S. investigation into the matter. In all, the Russian hackers hit systems in a total of 39 states, one of them said.

….Such operations need not change votes to be effective. In fact, the Obama administration believed that the Russians were possibly preparing to delete voter registration information or slow vote tallying in order to undermine confidence in the election. That effort went far beyond the carefully timed release of private communications by individuals and parties.

As we all know, last year the Obama administration tried to promote a bipartisan declaration that voting equipment was “national critical infrastructure,” which would have given the FBI and others more authority to investigate and deter Russian hacking. This failed because Mitch McConnell didn’t care about Russian hacking. He cared only that public acknowledgement of Russian hacking might somehow hurt Republicans. Mitch is quite the patriot, no?

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