A report from the Intercept alleges that Russian intelligence successfully hacked a manufacturer of US voting software mere days before the 2016 president election. Citing a classified NSA document that the online news magazine obtained from an anonymous source, the report indicates that Russian penetration into the US voting system was more invasive than previously thought.
Whether or not any actual results were tampered with is uncertain. According to some in the intelligence community, the localized nature of how the United States votes complicates mass fraud. Nonetheless, the details of the leaked document are eye-opening, and pose new questions about what parties benefited from Russian hacking during the election.
As the Intercept posted the story, a 25-year old security contractor named Reality Winner was arrested by the FBI. She has admitted to lifting classified information from a government facility and sending it to a news company. The general consensus is that she is behind the document received by the Intercept.
In addition to breaching the US voting software company, Russian intelligence also sent spear-phishing emails to hundreds of election officials. These emails, designed to appear as if they had been sent by affiliated companies, were intended to solicit private information from recipients that would subsequently compromise private company accounts and grant the hackers access to highly sensitive voting information.
As James Comey prepares to testify before Congress this week – which some pundits are declaring the “Super Bowl” of US politics – this new revelation poses new implications for the ongoing investigation into Trump’s potential collusion with Russian officials. Up to this point, the allegations have primarily related to the dissemination of propaganda and encouraging voters to stay home. But if any degree of collaboration can be confirmed between the Trump team and Russia, that partnership would now also be responsible for a direct attack on US voting systems.
The magazine concludes the report with a meditation on what this story – the first that has shown that hackers were able to get right up against the gates of US voting systems – means about political legitimacy:
Whatever the investigation into the Trump campaign concludes, however, it pales in comparison to the threat posed to the legitimacy of U.S. elections if the infrastructure itself can’t be secured.
Where this story concludes is anyone’s guess. Join Impact Tap for our liveblog of James Comey’s testimony before Congress this Thursday.