Russian Hacking May Have Penetrated Further Into U.S. Voting Than was Previously Understood

Hawaii Intelligence Digest, 07 June 2017, 04:55 hrs, UTC, Post # 223.


Accessed on 07 June 2017, 04:55 hrs. UTC.

Reporters:  Matthew Cole, Richard Esposito, Sam Biddle, and Ryan Grim (“The Intercept”).

Please click link to read the full report.


A highly classified report from the National Security Agency (NSA) says it has “the smoking gun” on Russian attempts to effect the outcome of the November 2016 U.S. Presidential Election.  The NSA report “states unequivocally that it was Russian Military Intelligence, specifically the Russian General Staff Main Intelligence Directorate, or GRU, that conducted the cyber attacks…”

“The Intercept” correspondents Matthew Cole, Richard Esposito, Sam Biddle, and Ryan Grim say all suspicions about Russian attempts to discourage voters and cast doubts about Democrat candidate Hillary Clinton have been confirmed.  Here’s the analysis:

“The report adds significant new detail to the picture that emerged from the unclassified intelligence assessment about Russian election meddling released by the Obama administration in January. The January assessment presented the U.S. intelligence community’s conclusions but omitted many specifics, citing concerns about disclosing sensitive sources and methods. The assessment concluded with high confidence that the Kremlin ordered an extensive, multi-pronged propaganda effort “to undermine public faith in the US democratic process, denigrate Secretary Clinton, and harm her electability and potential presidency.”

“That review did not attempt to assess what effect the Russian efforts had on the election, despite the fact that “Russian intelligence obtained and maintained access to elements of multiple US state or local electoral boards.” According to the Department of Homeland Security, the assessment reported reassuringly, “the types of systems we observed Russian actors targeting or compromising are not involved in vote tallying.”’

“The NSA has now learned, however, that Russian government hackers, part of a team with a “cyber espionage mandate specifically directed at U.S. and foreign elections,” focused on parts of the system directly connected to the voter registration process, including a private sector manufacturer of devices that maintain and verify the voter rolls. Some of the company’s devices are advertised as having wireless internet and Bluetooth connectivity, which could have provided an ideal staging point for further malicious actions.”


While Russian cyber warfare units attached to the GRU certainly played havoc with our election system, part of the blame for this unfortunate state of affairs rests with us and our lax voter registration systems.  Add to this mix a poor understanding of cybersecurity protocols by both major political parties and you have an accident waiting to happen. U.S. intelligence agencies, the FBI, and even some members of Congress warned long before the election that Russian hackers may try to disrupt the election process and influence voters against one or both presidential candidates.  Apparently that warning was unheeded and dismissed as unsubstantiated rumor.  The NSA report indicates that those responsible for conducting the election failed to protect the integrity of our election process. Whether Mr. Trump benefited from this hacking offensive remains to be seen. That topic will be resolved once the FBI and the U.S. Congress complete their investigations.  The United States is not alone in this event.  There is evidence that Russian hacking units were active in swaying French voters in their recent presidential election. Unconventional warfare via cyber attacks has been a specialty of Russian cyber warfare teams for at least a decade. Why this country and Europe didn’t do something about this trend before the NSA report remains an open question. The only winners in this battle will be the Russian Federation which is using its expertise to frame the boundaries of the next war.  This time, the conflict will be fought in the cyber realm.  We have a lot of catch up work to do. The only way to confound an enemy is to think like that enemy and act accordingly–this we have failed to do.

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Opinions expressed in this blog are mine unless otherwise stated.

Thanks for joining us today.

Until next time,

Russell Roberts

Hawaii Intelligence Digest

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