Russian Hackers Breached Voting Systems in 39 States

Henrietta Brewer
June 13, 2017

Mark Warner (D-Indiana), ranking member of the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence, did say that Russian hacking efforts were more expansive than reported.

Bloomberg News reported that the cyberattack, which occurred before President Trump's election, targeted almost twice the number of states as was previously revealed. Just how big was the state-run operation, and were any other major tools (aside from Britney Spears' Instagram account) involved?

The Russian hacking of US election systems past year was more widespread than officials have acknowledged publicly, according to a published report.

Hackers managed to gain access to the software intended for carrying out polls on election day, and, at least in one state access to the database on financing of the campaign.

Three people that Bloomberg describes as having "direct knowledge" of the federal Russian Federation probe said that the hackers gained access to software intended for poll workers to use on Election Day as well as to Illinois' entire state voter database.

The attacks hit election systems and databases in 39 states in all, according to Bloomberg's sources.

The Russian meddling of the USA election past year went way deeper than stealing Hillary Clinton's emails and spreading lots of fake news to confuse your grandmother on Facebook. It's not clear how anyone can insist that no US election votes were affected, though it's clear that that hackers were if nothing else building knowledge to pounce in the next election.

In early July 2016, a contractor who works two or three days a week at the state board of elections detected unauthorized data leaving the network, according to Ken Menzel, general counsel for the IL board of elections. As many as 90,000 records were ultimately compromised. IL became Patient Zero in the government's probe, eventually leading investigators to a hacking pandemic that touched four out of every five US states.

Using evidence from the IL computer banks, federal agents were able to develop digital "signatures" - among them, Internet Protocol addresses used by the attackers - to spot the hackers at work. Election registration databases are not linked to vote counting.

It's unclear from the story whether the hackers changed or deleted any data. But U.S. officials are increasingly anxious that hackers will end up using the 2016 intrusion as essentially a fact-finding mission for the next election - and potentially, and likely more effectively, fine-tune their meddling. "The Homeland Security Department dispatched special teams to help states strengthen their cyber defenses, and some states hired private security companies to augment those efforts". The federal government had no direct authority over state election systems, and some states offered limited cooperation. Only after the election did the two sides eventually reach a deal to make the designation.

The "red phone" wasn't literally a phone, but a secure messaging channel for " urgent messages and documents", according to Bloomberg.

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