Homeland Security: Putin’s hackers tried to crack electoral networks in 21 US states

Senate Intelligence Committee frustrated by lack of details

52 Reg comments Got Tips?

Russian attempts to hack key American election systems are more advanced than first thought, according to Homeland Security officials on Wednesday.

In a public hearing into election hacking held by the US Senate Intelligence Committee, the Department of Homeland Security's acting director of the cyber division, Dr Samuel Liles, claimed that the electoral systems of 21 as-yet-unnamed states were tested by hackers from the Russian government in October last year.

The attackers used a variety of publicly known exploits and software vulnerabilities to try to get into election registration and management systems, but not the vote tallying equipment itself. Liles said that of the 21 states that were probed, only a few actually got cracked. He opined that this was probably a preliminary run looking for vulnerabilities.

"A small number of the networks were successfully exploited," he said. "They made it through the door."

Youtube Video

Jeanette Manfra, acting director of Homeland Security's national protection and programs directorate, backed up Liles' claims. She testified [PDF] that websites and computer networks were targeted and that some intrusions did take place. However, in agreement with her colleague, she stated that the actual voting tallies from the 2016 election hadn't been compromised.

"We assessed that multiple checks and redundancies in US 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 US 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), expressed frustration at the witnesses, however, when they refused to disclose the states that had been hacked. He said such secrecy was unhelpful and that he would be trying to find out the truth.

Senator Marco Rubio (R-FL) also said that he didn't agree with all of the secrecy. He said his constituents were worried that their votes didn't matter if the Russians were getting involved in hacking.

But no answers were forthcoming. Panelist Bill Priestap, assistant director of the FBI's counterintelligence division, said [PDF] that his agency has not made an assessment of how much the Russian activity had influenced the US election result, as yet.

"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." ®

SUBSCRIBE TO OUR WEEKLY TECH NEWSLETTER


Keep Reading

Remember the Clipper chip? NSA's botched backdoor-for-Feds from 1993 still influences today's encryption debates

Enigma We'll laugh at today's mandated holes in the same way we laugh at those from 25 years ago

White House turns to Big Tech to fix coronavirus blunders while classifying previous conversations

What are Facebook, Google, Amazon, Microsoft et al supposed to do? We have some ideas

As Twitter blocks white supremacists posing as anti-fascists, FBI appeal is flooded with images of cop violence

Comment The confusion of physical and online protests merge

After huffing and puffing for years, US senators unveil law to blow the encryption house down with police backdoors

Lawmakers will attempt to bend the laws of mathematics to their will

FBI, NSA to hackers: Let us be blunt. Weed need your help. We'll hire you even if you've smoked a little pot in the past

Black Hat Now that's what we call a joint task force: Uncle Sam chills out, relaxes recruitment rules on drugs

FYI: FBI raiding NSA's global wiretap database to probe US peeps is probably illegal, unconstitutional, court says

Analysis A data silo we didn't know existed until a certain IT admin went rogue

Backdoors won't weaken your encryption, wails FBI boss. And he's right. They won't – they'll fscking torpedo it

Give it a Wray, give it a Wray, give it a Wray now: Big Chris steps in to defend blowing a hole in personal crypto

US regulators push back against White House plan to police social media censorship

New powers? No thanks

Biting the hand that feeds IT © 1998–2020