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Russia Targeted Election Systems in All 50 US States

Voting infrastructure in all 50 US states was probably infiltrated by Russian intelligence over the past few years, according to a new Senate Intelligence Committee report.

Although there’s no evidence that any votes were changed or any voting machines were manipulated, the heavily redacted report does reveal that hacking activity began as far back as 2014 and continued into “at least 2017.”

Investigators from the FBI and Department of Homeland Security (DHS) analyzed the activity of suspect IP addresses discovered in 2016 and came to the conclusion that Russian activity was far more widespread than the 21 states previously assumed to have been targeted.

“DHS assessed that the searches, done alphabetically, probably included all 50 states, and consisted of research on general election-related web pages, voter ID information, election system software, and election service companies,” the report claimed.

“State election officials, who have primacy in running elections, were not sufficiently warned or prepared to handle an attack from a hostile nation-state actor.”

Although there were opportunities to interfere with voting, the hackers - which displayed TTPs associated with state-sponsored Russians - appear to have chosen not to in 2016. However, this could change next time around, the report warned.

"If Russia's preferred candidate does not prevail in the 2020 election, the Russians may seek to delegitimize the election,” it argued. “The absence of any successful cyber intrusions, exfiltrations or manipulations would greatly benefit the US public in resisting such a campaign.”

Piers Wilson, head of product management at Huntsman Security, warned that hackers have a good chance of being successful in future elections, and governments must focus on improving their response.

“The operation of voter registration systems; the design, build and operation of electronic voting systems; the management of polling booths – all depend on technology and hence knowing how well defended these disparate systems are is no different,” he said. 

“There will always be actors looking to disrupt the democratic process so governments must be able to react swiftly to any attacks, and have the right contingency plans in place to keep the faith of the electorate.”

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