Russian hacking into the U.S. election system during the 2016 presidential campaign affected 39 states — almost twice as many as originally reported, according to a Bloomberg News report.
In the summer and fall of 2016, the hackers accessed state voting systems and tried to delete or alter voter information, investigators found. They also attempted to alter or delete information in one state’s database, which had not been previously reported.
The extent of the hacking was so severe that in October 2016, President Obama used a “red phone” line to Moscow to warn Russian officials to stop. The White House presented detailed evidence of the Russian hacking and warned that any further meddling would risk a larger conflict, said Obama administration officials. The Russians responded by saying they would look into it and asking for more evidence.
“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 Eric Schultz, a spokesman for Obama. “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.”
A contractor working on the Illinois voting system first raised the alarm to FBI and Homeland Security officials last July, when he discovered voter information leaving the system. Investigators looking into the Trump campaign’s possible collusion with Russia ultimately led to evidence of Russian hacking in 39 states.
It’s not clear why the hackers didn’t try to change actual vote totals, said the Bloomberg report. The likely explanations: The hackers just never figured out how to do it, said a former U.S official. There are more than 7,000 local voting jurisdictions nationwide.
In his testimony before Congress last week, former FBI director James Comey warned that the Russian meddling isn’t over and will almost certainly target the next election. “They’re coming after America,” Comey told the Senate Intelligence Committee. “They will be back.”