Russian efforts to hack 2016 election more extensive than first reported

Russian interference in the 2016 presidential election was more widespread than previously reported, according to an investigation by The New York Times.
By Billy Kirk | Sep 05, 2017
Russian interference in the 2016 presidential election was more widespread than previously reported, according to an investigation by The New York Times. But little has been done to evaluate its impact, say many state and national security officials.

Last fall, officials at the Department of Homeland Security testified that Russian hackers had infiltrated election systems in 21 states. Months later, a report by the National Security Agency disclosed that Russian hackers had penetrated VR Systems, a company that provided election services in eight states, including the battleground states of Florida, North Carolina, and Virginia.

Hackers cracked at least two other election services providers prior to election day, according to current and former intelligence officials, who would not disclose the names of the companies and spoke on condition of anonymity because the information is classified, the Times report said.

The U.S. intelligence community has nevertheless publicly insisted that despite Russian meddling, vote tallies were not hacked even though it usually takes months or even years for investigators to conduct digital analyses of cyberattacks, says Nicole Perlroth, a Times investigative reporter with six years experience on the cyber beat.

Many questions raised by Russian interference in the 2016 election were never addressed, officials say.

For example, investigators have not looked into the impact that hacking of 'back-end' election systems had at the ballot box. Back-end election systems include digital voter-registration databases, state and local election operations, and electronic poll, or e-poll, books laptops and tablets filled with check-in and voter registration software.

"What people focus on is, 'Did someone mess with the vote totals?'" said Susan Greenhalgh, a troubleshooter for a nonpartisan election monitoring group who saw a rash of problems with voters being turned away at the polls on election day in Durham, North Carolina. "What they don't realize is that messing with the e-poll books to keep people from voting is just as effective."

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