Russian cyberattack on U.S. electoral systems more widespread than revealed

President Donald Trump of the United States shakes hands with Russia's Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov as they meet for talks in the Oval Office at the White House

President Donald Trump of the United States shakes hands with Russia's Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov as they meet for talks in the Oval Office at the White House

"They will be back", former FBI Director James Comey told the Senate Intelligence Committee last week.

Russian hacking efforts in the 2016 election were bigger than previously reported, says a new Bloomberg article.

Russia's hacking of the USA electoral system during the 2016 presidential election was more extensive than previously thought, according to a Bloomberg report.

The report claims that investigators were most disturbed by failed Russian attempts to alter voter data in IL, as they believed that it was a trial run for what could have been a disruptive cyber attack on election day that would have thrown the entire process into mass chaos.

While neither last week's leaked NSA document nor Tuesday's bombshell Bloomberg News report offers direct evidence that the Russian hackers directly altered vote totals, stealing votes from Clinton or giving extra votes to Trump, and experts believe that the highly localized USA election system comprised of more than 7,000 individual voting jurisdictions makes it extremely difficult for a widespread election hack to work, one commenter - Charles Pierce of Esquire Magazine - noted that "it's becoming increasingly harder to believe that, in one of those 7,000 local jurisdictions, the Russians didn't strike gold".

US intelligence agencies have confirmed that Russian-based "cyber scanning or probing activities" were discovered against state voter registration systems, but this targeting does not equate to gaining access or actual breaches. It's not clear how anyone can insist that no USA election votes were affected, though it's clear that that hackers were if nothing else building knowledge to pounce in the next election. In July 2016, a contractor working for the IL state board of elections first detected data "leaving the network". The hackers had gained access to the state's voter database, which contained information such as names, dates of birth, genders, driver's licenses and partial Social Security numbers on 15 million people, half of whom were active voters. That suggested more than a mere spying mission and potentially a test run for a disruptive attack, according to the people familiar with the continuing US counterintelligence inquiry. Election registration databases are not linked to vote counting.

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. 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. When then-DHS Secretary Jeh Johnson said last August that the department wanted to declare the systems as national critical infrastructure - a designation that gives the federal government broader powers to intervene - Republicans balked. In 2008, what started during the Cold War as a teletype messaging system became a secure system for transferring messages and documents over fiber-optic lines.

In fact, the Obama administration said the red phone communications must have worked to keep Moscow from launching cyber attacks against election systems.

Some of Obama's team had wanted to make this information public at the time, but ultimately the White House declined as it could undermine the public's faith in the system, as if that horse hadn't galloped off into the sunset some time ago.

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