U.S. intel: Russia compromised seven states prior to 2016 election

Top-secret intelligence requested by President Barack Obama in his last weeks in office identified seven states where analysts …had reason to believe Russian operatives had compromised state websites or databases.

…Three senior intelligence officials told NBC News that the [states] the intelligence community [knew about] as of January 2017 were Alaska, Arizona, California, Florida, Illinois, Texas and Wisconsin.

…The U.S. intelligence community developed substantial evidence that state websites or voter registration systems in seven states were compromised by Russian-backed covert operatives prior to the 2016 election — but never told the states involved, according to multiple U.S. officials.

…Michael Daniel, the top White House cybersecurity official at the end of the Obama administration, told NBC News that the government’s assessment when he left the White House in January 2017 was that networks in seven states were compromised. He said he could not account for whether that assessment had changed in the past year.

….He said he could not name the states because some of the assessment was based on classified information.

Denis McDonough, who was Obama’s last chief of staff, …[asserts that] the administration acted to thwart the Russians before and after the election. Obama administration spokespeople also say they transmitted sensitive intelligence regarding state compromises to congressional leaders.

….While officials in Washington informed several of those states in the run-up to the election that foreign entities were probing their systems, none were told the Russian government was behind it, state officials told NBC News.

…Eight months after the assessment, in September 2017, the Trump administration’s DHS finally contacted election officials in all 50 states to tell them whether or not their systems had been targeted. It told 21 states they had been targeted, and U.S. officials acknowledged that some of those attempts had been successful.

…A spokesperson for the Arizona secretary of state, Matt Roberts, said the state had still not been informed of a successful hack, and had seen no evidence of one.

…Illinois itself had detected a “malicious cyberattack” on its voter registration system in the summer of 2016 and reported it to DHS, saying its voter rolls had been accessed but nothing had been altered.

…The other six states ….say that when DHS told them last September that their systems had been targeted, it still did not tell them that their systems had been compromised.

…Three states said publicly in September that while some state websites were affected, none were directly related to voting; specifically, Texas, Wisconsin and California say some sites were “scanned.” But a former senior intelligence official told NBC News that these types of probes can also be serious, either as gateways to other networks or as reconnoitering for future attacks.


…Reluctance to share the information may be due, in part, to the classification of the intelligence itself. Multiple intelligence officials told NBC News that determining the Russian government was behind the hacks depended on “exceptionally sensitive sources and methods” including human spies and eavesdropping on Russian communications.

U.S. intel: Russia compromised seven states prior to 2016 election – NBC News



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