Hackers associated with Russia’s military intelligence agency attempted to break into US voting software just days before Donald Trump was elected as the 45th President of the United States.
Top secret documents leaked from the NSA claim Russian hackers used data they captured to launch “voter registration-themed” cyberattacks on local government officials.
The document is the clearest sign yet that Russian hackers were able to turn the U.S. election in Donald Trump’s favor.
“Russian intelligence obtained and maintained access to elements of multiple US state or local electoral boards,” the NSA concluded, citing information “that became available in April 2017.” The NSA did not draw any conclusions on whether the effort had any effect on the election’s outcome, according to The Intercept.
The agency is not commenting on the document but officials told The Intercept that the findings are in fact real.
Hackers also attempted to gain access to absentee balloting systems, “presumably with the purpose of creating those accounts to mimic legitimate services,” according to the report.
It’s not clear at this time if all of the group’s efforts were a success.
Cyber security experts are worried that the Russian hackers were able to breach the voter registration system in its entirety, allowing them to manipulate actual voting machines.
“I would worry about whether an attacker who could compromise the poll book vendor might be able to use software updates that the vendor distributes to also infect the election management system that programs the voting machines themselves,” Alex Halderman, director of the University of Michigan Center for Computer Security and Society and an electronic voting expert, explained to The Intercept.
“Once you do that, you can cause the voting machine to create fraudulent counts,” he added.
Hackers may have also taken a different approach, deleting certain user information so voters would have to jump through hoops to prove their identity after casting a ballot. That process could have turned the election in Donald Trump’s favor.
Russian President Vladimir Putin has denied his own government agencies staged an attack against the Democratic National Committee and Hillary Clinton’s campaign chairman, John Podesta, during the 2016 election.
Last week, Putin said “patriotically minded” Russians may have been involved.
“We’re not doing this at the state level,” Putin said. He added though, that patriotic Russian may have started “making contributions — which are right, from their point of view — to the fight against those who say bad things about Russia.”
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James Kosur is the former Editor-In-Chief and co-founder of Hill Reporter. He recently served as an editor for Business Insider and various other publications. James and his partners sold Hill Reporter to a new owner in July 2019.