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Russians Hacked Election Systems in 39 States According to Explosive New Report

by Countable | 6.13.17

Bloomberg News has published an explosive new report citing sources who say thirty-nine states were hacked by the Russians during the 2016 presidential election, almost twice the number previously reported.

Bloomberg’s sources report that the Obama administration was so concerned with the extent of Russian interference in the summer and fall of 2016 that they reached out to the Russian government via a Cold War-era backchannel, now technologically updated and repurposed to "allow urgent communication to defuse a possible cyber conflict". According to the article:

"The White House provided evidence gathered on Russia’s hacking efforts and reasons why the U.S. considered it dangerously aggressive. Russia responded by asking for more information and providing assurances that it would look into the matter even as the hacking continued, according to the two people familiar with the response.”

The evidence, which emerged initially in Illinois, where a part-time state board of elections contractor noticed unauthorized data leaving the system. Hackers had gained access to the state’s voter registration database, which includes information including "names, dates of birth, genders, driver’s licenses and partial Social Security numbers". The general counsel for the Illinois Board of Elections, Ken Menzel, reported that approximately 90,000 records were compromised.

Illinois became, for federal investigators, "patient zero":

"Using evidence from the Illinois 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. The signatures were then sent through Homeland Security alerts and other means to every state. Thirty-seven states reported finding traces of the hackers in various systems...In two others -- Florida and California -- those traces were found in systems run by a private contractor managing critical election systems.”

Menzel explained the relationship between state and county election offices, which actually run poll locations:

"Counties upload records to the state, not the other way around, and no data moves from the database back to the counties, which run the elections...The state does, however, process online voter registration applications that are sent to the counties for approval..When voters are added to the county rolls, that information is then sent back to the state and added to the central database. This process, which is common across states, does present an opportunity for attackers to manipulate records at their inception."

Bloomberg’s sources did not report evidence of any votes being changed, but they noted that the cyber attacks would not need to change votes to be effective:

"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...One former senior U.S. official expressed concern that the Russians now have three years to build on their knowledge of U.S. voting systems before the next presidential election, and there is every reason to believe they will use what they have learned in future attacks.”

"America’s disparate voting systems spread across more than 7,000 local jurisdictions" likely prevented the Russian hackers from having the time to actively disrupt votes, but that doesn’t mean they won’t develop that capability by 2020, or even 2018. Following the 2016 election, however, Bloomberg reports that states and the federal government agreed to designate state election systems as “national critical infrastructure”, which gives federal investigatory agencies broader powers to intervene and prevent future attacks.

The Bloomberg report, though unconfirmed by federal officials, is bolstered by a classified NSA document, released to the The Intercept, detailing Russian cyber-attacks of an elections systems vendor, VR Systems.

Should the federal and state governments prioritize steps to prevent further cyber attacks and protect state voting systems? Use the Take Action button to tell your reps what you think!

— Asha Sanaker

(Photo Credit: City of Alexandria, VA / Creative Commons )

Countable

Written by Countable

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(115)
  • Edwina
    06/13/2017
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    As long as I live I will never believe Trump actually won that election

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  • Marjorie
    06/13/2017
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    The report that Russia hacked into the election systems of 39 states is appalling! There needs to be a strong effort to stop this from happening again. We have to trust our election results or our democracy will not thrive. Whether or not this hacking affected the winner of the 2016 presidential election, we can't sweep this under the rug and allow it to happen again with even more serious consequences. So there should be two separate investigations: 1) determine if the 2016 elections were compromised by this hacking; and 2) figure out how to prevent hacking in the future. Both are critical, and partisan politics should be irrelevant. Anyone who doesn't want the truth doesn't deserve to hold office.

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  • Ticktock
    06/14/2017
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    The Trump Administration nor the Republican Congress has yet to address or admit that the Russian attack was so pervasive. Senator Burr was very quick to insist during the Comey hearing that no votes were manipulated by the Russians. Yet the discoveries continue to spill and will continue to do so. The Russians are good at what they do and endeavor to enter and leave a system as unobtrusively as possible. There's a saying: the Chinese steal your secrets but Russia steals your cash. They have been doing this for years on the black market and at the State level. Our government has minimized the success of the Russian hack to support the US citizens confidence in our voting process but the truth is that they just don't know that the Russians were not successfully accessing our ballot booths. Our government should assume that the Russians did penetrate the ballot box and work backward to see how it could be done. The Russians will be back not only in 2018, 2020 and continually thereafter. If we do not deal rationally they will access and control our ballots. Russia will not only be back for our vote but out power grid, railroad infrastructure, nuclear power stations, anything that linked to a computer, software and important infrastructure. Reality Winner was just trying to worn us, our government certainly isn't. The Russians are meticulous, knowledgeable, dedicated and patient. We must be as well.

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  • Gail
    06/13/2017
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    Russian hacking into state voter databases is a mission critical situation. It is of a very high importance but should be worked on aggressively and concurrently to ongoing Russian interference investigations. This is a real test of the foundations of our government, which are being assaulted from within and without. Citizenry better be prepared to demand better and fairer voting laws and stop promoting false voter fraud Id programs and address the real threat! This is an urgent call for young, fair minded individuals to run for office to stop the degradation of the functioning of the branches of government and the movement to turn us into an oligarchy. Alarm bells are going off. Be vocal, support progressive candidates and keep making your voice be heard over and over again. Reward and praise those who stand up for equality. I cannot imagine how discouraged my Reps must be. I want them to know I appreciate their efforts in the face of overwhelming odds. Persist!

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  • Dylan
    06/14/2017
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    If this is true, Trump and his administration need to be removed immediately (at the very least, depending on how much they knew) and we need to have a special election with only paper ballots. Taking no action on this would be unacceptable.

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  • Mary
    06/14/2017
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    Why hasn't the President, and the GOP, responded more aggressively to the Russia hacking of 39 state's election systems?! Your complacency is dangerous.

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  • Marilyn
    06/14/2017
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    I cannot understand why you members of Congress are not livid about the intrusion of Russia into our election process. Are you not concerned about the Russians trying to damage our political system? I would hope to see some outrage from all of you in the near future!

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  • Deborah
    06/14/2017
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    Any POTUS or Congressman who doesn't want to know the truth about the Russians interfering with our elections is a traitor.

    Like (11)
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  • Linda
    06/14/2017
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    With the threat of Russia tampering with our elections, why is more attention not given to improving our election process to prevent attack this from happening? Investigate, for sure, but protect the 2018 voting from foreign attacks.

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  • JABalli
    06/13/2017
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    I feel ill at this news

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  • Phillip
    06/14/2017
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    When will the GOP stop fooling around and stalling this investigation. It's obvious it is the number one priority before any more legislation should be considered. Unless you are in collusion with it or just turning a blind eye to push through agenda while you can ad you know you only have a few years at best. You are either Americans or traitors.

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  • Sterling
    06/14/2017
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    Russia declared war on the USA when it hacked, interfered, and or colluded with the Trump campaign regarding the 2016 elections which could have effected the results of Senate elections, House of Representatives elections and the outcome of the presidential elections. It is time for the US Congress to thoroughly investigate and resolve this on-going problem. There should be harsher sanctions imposed upon Russia! One other issue, Senate Republicans are currently meeting behind closed doors to design a healthcare insurance plan which will deny more than 23 million Americans health insurance and raise the costs of premiums more than 5 times current premium prices; i.e. If a family currently pays $800.00/ monthly that will cost the family $4000.00/month. The higher premiums will be paid by Americans with pre-existing conditions and for women who want to get pregnant. Representative Perry stated he did not want to pay higher premiums for healthcare insurance due to the current insurance plans that cover pregnancy and pre-existing conditions! If Trumpcare Insurance Plan is good for the American People, why is the congressional healthcare insurance plan different? I would think Congress and their families should have the same benefits as the American People! STOP MEETING BEHIND CLOSED DOORS, REPUBLICANS! You are not transparent and we, the people of the USA deserve better........

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  • Robert
    06/14/2017
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    It is painfully clear to just about everyone in America except the Trump administration that the Russians hacked the 2016 election. Yet Trump has never addressed a concern about this and continues to refer to it as "fake news". This was an attack on our democracy by a foreign power that is not going away and all Trump cares about is to try to hamper the investigation. This investigation should be a major priority for our country to ensure our elections cannot be interfered with ever again. Donald Trump's response to the Russian interference with the election is deplorable. The man is an incompetent idiot and we need a strong congress to keep the man in check. It is time to put petty party squabbling aside for the good of our nation. This is not a Republican or a Democratic issue, it is an issue that should concern all Americans and must be investigated and stopped.

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  • Mona
    06/14/2017
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    We demand an independent investigation into the Russian ties.

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  • Steve
    06/14/2017
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    This joke of a voting system we have had to result in widespread hacking by Russians acting on behalf of the TRUMP oligarchy. I am quite sure that here in Florida that hacking has been going on since the 2000 election by simply reporting the tallies with a plausible win for Republicans. Since we have no viable paper trail to prove otherwise whose to say?

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  • Geege67
    06/14/2017
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    I urge you to do everything you can to assure protection of our voting systems. Trump is SILENT on this matter. You MUST hold him accountable. Thank you.

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  • Milan
    06/14/2017
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    This should be a bipartisan priority to look into this and secure our country and its democracy. This is America - not some third world banana republic where elections don't matter. This is the basis of our constitution and our freedom. Protect them.

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  • Kay
    06/14/2017
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    The Russian hacking of 39 state voting systems is an ACTUAL problem compared with the imaginary voting by dead people that trump believes

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  • Sandra
    06/14/2017
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    Get to the bottom of this now. Trump's win was fraud!

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  • Nashluna
    06/14/2017
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    Why hasn't the President, and the GOP, responded more aggressively to the Russia hacking of 39 state's election systems?! Your complacency is dangerous.

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