Russia led a cyberattack against US voting systems to influence the outcome of the 2016 presidential campaign. As reported by Bloomberg on June 13, the tampering was far more widespread than the public has previously been informed. Election officials have evidence of incursions into voter databases and software systems in at least 39 states. That’s nearly double the number of states publicly reported before today.
The FBI and the Department of Homeland Security have especially extensive information about Russian tampering with voter rolls and election outcomes in Illinois, as the state has granted the federal government almost full access to its voting systems. The investigation includes note of a July 2016 report that voter registration data was leaving Illinois’ computer system without authorization. Deleting or altering voter registration data appears to have been the hackers’ objective.
Days before the November 8 election, Russia’s military intelligence agency cyberattacked a US voting machine company, VR Systems, according to a National Security Agency report posted Monday by The Intercept. Seven of eight states that use VR Systems voting machines collect paper ballots, so comparing paper records with electronic reports may ultimately help establish the extent of Russian manipulation.
Testifying before Congress last week about Russia and the 2016 US election, former FBI Director James Comey warned lawmakers that Russian interference will continue in attempts to shape election outcomes.
Interfering with a nationwide election becomes complicated by America’s many voting districts and voting technologies. However, the “patchwork system” also has many vulnerabilities. Now that hackers have gained experience, they may make more sophisticated and effective attempts in 2018 and beyond.