The 2016 presidential election is now many months in the past, but the details of what external factors played a role in the eventual outcome show no sign of ceasing. A new report from The Intercept reveals that a Russian military intelligence effort was launched just days before the day of the election, and that it targeted the voting process on multiple levels, including a supplier of electronic voting software and even voting officials in many locations.
According to the report, which cites anonymously leaked NSA documents which were “independently authenticated” and remain top secret, provides a look into the internal investigation surrounding attacks on our voting process at the hands of Russia. The documents detail the execution of cyber espionage missions in order to “obtain information on elections-related software and hardware solutions” which were authorized by the Russian military.
The bad actors are said to have targeted private companies which play a role in the voting system, including those which provide and maintain the software used to record and voter registrations. Additionally, the attackers launched a “spear-phishing” attack on local government officials in charge of voting in some areas. Attackers sent malware-infected files to email addresses associated with the individuals, potentially risking the infection of computer systems linked to the voting process. It is unclear how many of the targeted officials fell victim to the malicious software, or what sensitive information, if any, was compromised.
Russian president Vladimir Putin, for the record, has vehemently denied that the country took place in any cyber warfare against the US voting system, and suggested that independent hackers may have carried out attacks of their own free will and without government authorization or support.