Computer hackers were reportedly successful in altering the voter rolls of at least one election system and also managed to steal thousands of voter records containing private information about Americans during the 2016 presidential election.
On June 22, current and former intelligence officials disclosed that hackers successfully changed the voter data stored in an unspecified county. The manipulations were detected by election officials and corrected, but the incident prompts the question of whether the Russian government was successful in altering the data of other election systems, Time reports.
The federal and congressional probes into Russian interference during the election have not determined whether the infiltrators of the successfully altered database were working on behalf of the Russian government. However, authorities say they are confident that Russian hackers were successful in stealing 90,000 private records from election systems in Illinois.
Illinois State Board of Elections General Counsel Ken Menzel disclosed that over 90 percent of those records included partial Social Security numbers and driver's license numbers. The congressional investigations into Russia's role during the election are currently probing whether that private information was given to President Donald Trump's campaign. Currently, no officials have disclosed any evidence of such an arrangement, which would amount to collusion.
"If any campaign, Trump or otherwise, used inappropriate data the questions are: How did they get it? From whom? And with what level of knowledge? That is the crux of the investigation," said Michael Bahar, who previously worked as the staff director and general counsel of the House Intelligence Committee.
The House Intelligence Committee is currently investigating whether any stolen voter data was given to the Trump campaign during the election. The panel currently plans to request that Trump campaign digital director Brad Parscale testify later this summer, although no specific date has been scheduled.
Former FBI cybersecurity official Anthony Ferrante revealed that the Obama administration was deeply concerned about Russian actors' capability of subverting the 2016 election outcome after detecting intrusions in a growing number of election systems.
"At first it was one state, then three, then give, then a dozen ... In addition to the threat to the vote we were also very concerned about the public confidence in the integrity of the electoral system," Ferrante said.
Former White House cybersecurity coordinator Michael Daniel, who served in the Obama administration, believed that Russian hackers had infiltrated far more states than his team was able to detect.
"We had to assume that they actually tried to at least rattle the doorknobs on all 50, and we just happened to find them in a few of them," Daniel said.
On June 21, Department of Homeland Security officials testified before the Senate Intelligence Committee. They disclosed that the election systems of 21 states were targeted by Russian hackers but that even fewer were successfully breached. Officials declined to specify which states were targeted, CNN reports.
Samuel Liles, the acting director of cyber intelligence at DHS, assured the committee that the "level of effort and scale required to change the outcome of a national election would make it nearly impossible to avoid detection."
In a separate hearing, former Homeland Security Secretary Jeh Johnson told the House Intelligence Committee that he had seen no evidence during his tenure that Russia had manipulated the vote during the 2016 election, Fox News reports.
"To my current knowledge, the Russian government did not through any cyber intrusion alter ballots, ballot counts or reporting of election results," Johnson said.
Sources: CNN, Fox News, Time / Photo credit: The Russian Presidential Press and Information Office/Wikimedia Commons