According to Homeland Security officials, the attack against the 2016 Presidential election was more sophisticated than first thought.
In a public hearing into the Russian interference in the 2016 Presidential election held by the US Senate Intelligence Committee, the Department of Homeland Security director of the cyber division, Dr Samuel Liles, claimed that the electoral networks in 21 US states were probed by hackers a month before the election. The systems in a few of states were hacked.
The Department of Homeland Security director avoided disclosing the name of the US states. Russian hackers tried to exploit software vulnerabilities in the target systems by using a number of publicly known exploits.
The hackers aimed to get access into election registration and management systems, but not the vote-tallying equipment.
“A small number of the networks were successfully exploited,” he said. “They made it through the door.”
“In September, our products at the classified and unclassified levels reported that we had no indication that adversaries or criminals were planning cyber operations against the U.S. election infrastructure that would change the outcome of the coming U.S. election. Further, we assessed that multiple checks and redundancies in U.S. election infrastructure—including diversity of systems, non-Internet connected voting machines, pre-election testing, and processes for media, campaign, and election officials to check, audit, and validate results—make it likely that cyber manipulation of U.S. election systems intended to change the outcome of a national election would be detected.” she said.
The vice chairman of the committee, Senator Mark Warner (D-VA) didn’t agree that secrecy about the name of hacked states, same opinion was shared by Senator Marco Rubio (R-FL).
The Panelist Bill Priestap, assistant director of the FBI’s counterintelligence division, said that his agency has not assessed the alleged Russian influence to the result of the 2016 Presidential election.
“Russia’s 2016 Presidential election influence effort was its boldest to date in the United States,” he told the committee.
“Russia’s activities included efforts to discredit Secretary Clinton and to publicly contrast her unfavorably with President Trump. This Russian effort included the weaponization of stolen cyber information, the use of Russia’s English-language state media as a strategic messaging platform, and the mobilization of social media bots and trolls to spread disinformation and amplify Russian messaging.”
(Security Affairs – Russian Hackers, 2016 Presidential election)