The 2016 elections in the United States were marked by interference. Russian government hackers sought to tip the outcome of the presidential race in their favor, and we’re still living under the shadow of that effort thanks to Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation and the Trump presidency itself. The interference shadow also still looms, it turns out, via at least 160 incidents of hacks or attempted hacks of U.S. election infrastructure that have been identified just since August 1.
Vermont Secretary of State Jim Condos — who doubles as the president of the National Association of Secretaries of State — explained:
‘It’s like a burglar walking up to your house in middle of night, jiggling the door to see if it’s unlocked. That’s what it looks like — they’re trying to figure out your weakness.’
The fact that we even know about the metaphorical burglars stems in part from concern over how the Russian threat associated with the 2016 elections were handled. In that case, reporting lagged as officials attempted to figure out what they should even be doing to respond to the meddling activity. The still continuing Russia investigation that roped in the Trump campaign itself got underway, but that wasn’t even publicly confirmed until the year following the election. An unclassified intelligence community report about the interference came out some two months after the targeted election was over.
After criticism from Congressional investigators over their handling of the issue, the Department of Homeland Security “has begun offering classified briefings to state officials and sharing threat assessments with more partners,” The Boston Globe reports.
DHS spokesman Scott McConnell asserted:
‘This sharing is helping us build a national-level understanding of the cybersecurity threats facing our nation’s election infrastructure.’
That understanding simply hasn’t been in place previously. McConnell added that there’s no basis to consider if the present rate of attempted cyberattacks should be considered a spike because relevant data just wasn’t compiled in recent years. This year’s coverage includes attempts to hack into voter databases, access email accounts, and otherwise break into computer systems which affected at least half a dozen states just in the last week of October.
The preliminary information that DHS has been maintaining about threats on the ground does not include final determinations about the origin of the threats, but most of them have been marked as likely foreign-based.
These documented threats are similar to those poised by the all too familiar Russian hackers who meddled in the 2016 elections. For instance, there have been apparent attempts at misinformation campaigns such as two states facing “suspicious” false text messages to voters claiming all early voting sites would be closed for the weekend.
DHS efforts to combat these sorts of pitfalls contrast strongly with President Donald Trump’s behavior. He had to be goaded by international pressure into admitting that there’s glaring evidence tying Russia to the well known hacks of Democrats associated with the 2016 U.S. elections. He’d previously stood next to Russian President Vladimir Putin and asserted he found no reason to believe Russia was guilty.
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