RUSSIA’S ELECTION HACKS MUCH BIGGER THAN WE THOUGHT
Original reports out of the New York Times provide some startling details about Russia’s hacking of the Presidential Election last fall. Evidently the hacking was “more extensive than previously disclosed.” But until recently nobody has been looking into the attacks that took place at the state or local level. The reasons why are not simple but make the whole situation a bit scarier.
MANY US STATES HACKED AT THE LOCAL LEVEL, FINGERS WILL START POINTING, WHY NO INVESTIGATION?
One already known issue that prevented citizens of North Carolina, Virginia, Georgia and Arizona from voting was that their names were removed from the electronic polling books. Russian hackers got into the servers of VR Systems, which creates the software used in polling equipment. But sources within the intelligence community have spoken to the NYT that at least two other election software companies were compromised by Russian hacks as well. That’s not good news. What does it mean? We’ll likely never know. According to the Times: Government officials said that they intentionally did not address the security of the back-end election systems, whose disruption could prevent voters from even casting ballots. That’s partly because states control elections; they have fewer resources than the federal government but have long been loath to allow even cursory federal intrusions into the voting process.
STATES HAVE FEW RESOURCES TO INVESTIGATE, FEDS LOATHE TO JUMP IN, RUSSIA LAUGHS
And it’s not just those concerns that are hampering an investigation either:
That, along with legal constraints on intelligence agencies’ involvement in domestic issues, has hobbled any broad examination of Russian efforts to compromise American election systems. Those attempts include combing through voter databases, scanning for vulnerabilities or seeking to alter data, which have been identified in multiple states. Current congressional inquiries and the special counsel’s Russia investigation have not focused on the matter.
RUSSIA “DIDN’T ALTER VOTE COUNT” BUT PREVENTED PEOPLE FROM VOTING, TRUMP ELECTED BY SEMANTICS
Meanwhile, the intelligence community said back in January that Russian hackers didn’t alter the vote count. But that assurance skirts around the idea that attackers could have tinkered with the back-end of the election software in such a way that voters in key counties of swing states couldn’t vote at all. The notion that any foreign power could have taken this clever and dreadfully powerful tack is sickening to say the least.
MYSTERY WILL BE HARD TO SOLVE, AS LONG AS WE DON’T WANT TO LOOK
We already know that the Russian hacking was bad. However, the takeaway from this latest investigation—and you should read the Times report in full to understand the broader context—is that, nearly a year after the fact, we still don’t know profoundly Russian hacking affected voting on election day. We might never know, since the investigation is fractured on federal, state, and local levels. On top of all that, it remains unclear if the issues that kept people from going to the polls were caused by Russian hacking, interference from another foreign power, or simply software glitches.
THE ROAD TO NOVEMBER IS NOT A CONFIDENT ONE
That not knowing is the really scary thing about the 2016 election. Without finding clarity on what went wrong last year, the American people are bound to feel skeptical about how the midterm elections will go next time around. Inevitably, the lack of confidence in the election process could simply stop people from going to the polls, which is never a good thing in a democracy.
There’s still time. The midterm elections are 14 months away, and a lot of things could change before then. No matter what, though, go ahead and plan on voting, regardless of what you might fear will happen. Voting is the most important thing you can do as a citizen of this beleaguered nation. You can’t get turned away at the polls if you don’t show up.