Last week we learned through a defense contractor’s leaked documents to The Intercept that Russia hacked a Florida voting equipment vendor and sent spear-phishing emails to over 100 local election officials up until days before election day.
About the leak, Sen. Mark Warner (D-Va.), Ranking Member of the Senate Intelligence Committee and co-leader of an intel committee probe into Russian cyber activities, told USA Today:
“The extent of the attacks is much broader than has been reported so far.”
Not only are the attacks much broader than reported, but according to a piece in Bloomberg on Tuesday, Russian infiltration into voter databases and software systems leading up to the 2016 presidential election occurred in almost twice as many states as previously reported–thirty-nine total.
The Obama administration was aware this occurred and was so alarmed, it actually contacted the Kremlin over the so-called “red phone”- a secure messaging channel for communicating urgent messages and documents – to provide details of Russia’s role in election meddling, and to warn attacks risked precipitating a larger conflict.
Eric Schultz, a spokesman for former President Barack Obama, said:
“Last year, as we detected intrusions into websites managed by election officials around the country, the administration worked relentlessly to protect our election infrastructure. Given that our election systems are so decentralized, that effort meant working with Democratic and Republican election administrators from all across the country to bolster their cyber defenses.”
But the hackers’ work continued.
Investigators in Illinois last July uncovered evidence cyber intruders attempted to delete or alter voter data. Hackers accessed polling software and a campaign finance database in at least one state.
Ken Menzel, general counsel for the Illinois board of elections, stated a state board of elections contractor detected unauthorized data last year. Hackers had evidently gained access to Illinois’s voter database containing names, birth dates, genders, driver’s license numbers, and partial Social Security numbers for fifteen million people, half of whom active voters. 90,000 records were compromised.
This case became the litmus test in the government probe, eventually leading investigators to uncover widespread hacking affecting four out of every five U.S. states. This allowed federal agents to develop digital “signatures” to spot the hackers, such as Internet Protocol (IP) addresses.
These signatures were sent nationwide through Homeland Security alerts and myriad other means. This led to thirty-seven states uncovering traces of hacking. In Florida and California, hacking was discovered in systems private contractors that manage crucial election systems operate.
The federal government had no direct authority over state election systems, though, and some states did not offer full cooperation, so the extent of Russian infiltration still remains unclear.
Former Homeland Security Secretary Jeh Johnson last August expressed a desire to declare state election systems national critical infrastructure, which would provide the federal government broader powers to intervene. Republicans refused.
Last week, former FBI Director James Comey warned Congress during his highly televised Senate Intelligence Committee hearing that Moscow is not through meddling with the American electorate:
“They’re coming after America. They will be back.”
Watch this report about the Russian hacking, and just how far it’s gone (after the jump):
Featured Image Via Pixabay.