Russia officially penetrated several states’ voter rolls during the 2016 election.
“We saw a targeting of 21 states and an exceptionally small number of them were actually successfully penetrated. We were able to determine that the scanning and probing of voter registration databases was coming from the Russian government.”
Former DHS secretary Jeh Johnson, said:
“2016 was a wake-up call and now it’s incumbent upon states and the Feds to do something about it before our democracy is attacked again.”
Weeks before ceding his post last January, Johnson declared the nation’s electoral systems part of the nation’s federally protected “critical infrastructure,” a designation the government ascribes to crucial resources susceptible to attack, like power grids.
Now Johnson is concerned states have done virtually nothing “to actually harden their cybersecurity.”
“I would say they have all taken it seriously.”
In September, The Huffington Post and The Associated Press identified the following states as having been infiltrated: Alabama, Alaska, Arizona, California, Colorado, Connecticut, Delaware, Florida, Illinois, Iowa, Maryland, Minnesota, North Dakota, Ohio, Oklahoma, Oregon, Pennsylvania, Texas, Virginia, Washington, and Wisconsin.
However, NBC News reports today Texas and California were never attacked.
“Of course, the Russians wouldn’t attack Texas. They were trying to help Trump, not hurt him. If California would have suddenly gone red on election night, it would have been too obvious and set off red flags.”
In June, 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.
According to Bloomberg, 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.
Former FBI Director James Comey warned Congress during his highly televised Senate Intelligence Committee hearing in June that Moscow is not through meddling with the American electorate:
“They’re coming after America. They will be back.”
Secretary of States Rex Tillerson confirmed the United States is still vulnerable to similar meddling.
“Well, I don’t know that I would say we’re better prepared (than in 2016) because the Russians will adapt as well. The point is if it’s their intention to interfere, they’re going to find ways to do that. And we can take steps we can take, but this is something that, once they decide they’re going to do it, it’s very difficult to preempt it.”
Asked whether he thought Russia would interfere again, Tillerson said:
“I don’t know. I hope they don’t.”
Donald Trump won the election by fewer than 90,000 votes in Michigan, Pennsylvania, and Wisconsin, so tipping the scales in only a few states would have sufficed.
And it did.
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