Officials have been saying for months that Russian intelligence agents tampered with the U.S. election, but according to a new report, those meddling efforts were far more extensive than previously stated.
According to a Bloomberg story published on June 13, Russian hackers broke into electoral systems in 39 states, tried to change voter data in Illinois, and got into one state's campaign finance databases. Though the hackers failed to alter any of the Illinois voter information, officials reportedly told Bloomberg that they are worried that actions in the state were simply a trial run for a larger attack in the future.
Indeed, former FBI Director James Comey told the Senate Intelligence Committee during a hearing that Russia is "coming after America" and "will be back," according to Bloomberg.
The Russian government has denied allegations of meddling, and Russian President Vladimir Putin suggested that any tampering could have been conducted by criminals in the country working independently of the Russian government.
Since there are more than 7,000 voting jurisdictions in the U.S., the Russians likely struggled to make any meaningful changes, which could explain why they did not attempt to disrupt voting, said one official who requested anonymity.
At the time of the 2016 election, former President Barack Obama's administration suspected that the foreign intruders might have been gearing up to slow the vote count or purge voter registration with the goal of damaging voter confidence in the process. Due to those concerns, the White House contacted the Kremlin directly through a back channel, relaying evidence surrounding the hack and warning that any attacks on the election would spark wider conflict.
Moscow asked for more information on the matter and promised to look into it, said two sources. The hacking continued, though.
"Last year, as we detected intrusions into websites managed by election officials around the country, the administration worked relentlessly to protect our election infrastructure," said Obama spokesman Eric Schultz. "Given that our election systems are so decentralized, that effort meant working with Democratic and Republican election administrators from all across the country to bolster their cyber defenses."
The FBI is conducting at least three separate investigations into the alleged Russian hacking of voting systems and the Democratic National Committee's emails as well as reported ties between President Donald Trump's campaign and Russia, five officials told Reuters in February.