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Russian Election Hack Bigger Than First Thought

June 19, 2017

When James Comey, the ex-FBI director gave his public testimony to the Senate Intelligence Committee, there was much that remained unclear, and in many ways, more questions were raised than answered. But on one subject at least a clear message was sent: Russia unequivocally attempted to hack the American election.


Worse than feared

Mr Comey put it quite clearly:

“They’re coming after America…. They will be back”

And since that hearing, news has broken that demonstrates the hack into the 2016 election and attempts to influence was more widespread than previously thought. Bloomberg is reporting that new details from a classified Nation Security Agency document has shown that up to 39 state’s electoral systems and campaigns were targeted in the 2016 election.

It’s emerged that the Obama administration used the modern-day equivalent of the ‘red phone’. It directly communicated with Russia to report the discovery of such hacking attempts and insist they stop.

Limited damage but a concern

Voter records, online registration sites and campaign documents were all targeted in the attacks. The attacks on Illinois’s electoral system is the incident in which most details have emerged. The intrusions tried to delete and alter voter data.

The Obama administration maintained that the actual election result had not been tampered with. It’s an incredibly complex and fragmented system that makes up the American election process. Hacking and altering the election would be an almighty task, one Russia failed to ultimately do. However, the concern is that it will have learnt from the 2016 election and be in a stronger position to carry out similar attacks come the next election, and who knows when that will be.

Despite President Trump somewhat playing down the Russian involvement in the 2016 election. The senate is not taking it lightly, and as such has just voted for a new host of sanctions to punish Russia for its actions. Whether the sanctions will make it pass the house and the executive, we will have to wait and see.

Whenever the next election comes, America’s electoral system will need to be prepared and ready for intrusions. Really, the preparations to improve cyber security should have started already. Even beyond the government, for all organizations, it’s important to make the changes needed now, rather than suffer tomorrow. Strong cyber security ecosystems that take no chances with sensitive data are needed now.