Russia 'compromised' seven US states prior to 2016 election, say intelligence officials

Hackers accessed voting registration databases, according to intelligence officers connected to an investigation ordered by Barack Obama

Harry Cockburn
Wednesday 28 February 2018 14:03 GMT
Voter casts his ballot in the 2016 presidential election
Voter casts his ballot in the 2016 presidential election (Getty)

Voting registration systems or their websites were “compromised” by Russian-backed operatives in seven US states ahead of Donald Trump, American intelligence officials have revealed.

But while the states were informed of security breaches, but were not told who was behind them.

A top-secret investigation ordered by Barack Obama during his last weeks as president, uncovered the areas where where analysts believed Russian actors had gained access to databases and websites.

Alaska, Arizona, California, Florida, Illinois, Texas and Wisconsin, were all compromised, NBC News reported after speaking to three senior intelligence officials.

They told the broadcaster that the breaches varied in seriousness and ranged from entering state websites, to actually accessing voting registration databases.

But they maintained that no individuals were removed from the electoral roll and they said no votes had been changed.

Wisconsin voted for Mr Trump by a margin of just one percent, making it the third-closest state result in the US.

Florida voted for Mr Trump by a margin of 1.2 per cent - the fifth-closest state result in the election.

Despite being informed of security breaches, six of the seven states deny they were “compromised” ahead of the vote. The denials are based on their own cybersecurity investigations.

The lack of clarity over the issue comes as concern mounts over how the US should prepare for further waves of interference.

Earlier this month, 13 Russians were charged with meddling in the US presidential election.

Court documents produced by the US Government said they began interfering in US political processes as early as 2014.

The charges include conspiracy, wire fraud, bank fraud and aggravated identity theft. They are the most direct allegations to date of illegal Russian meddling in the election.

They were brought by Special Counsel Robert Mueller, who is investigating Russian interference in the election. His probe is also looking into whether members of Mr Trump’s campaign colluded with the Russian government.

Mr Trump has repeatedly denied there was any collusion.

Despite Mr Trump’s assertions, his own national security adviser has said there is undeniable proof of Russian meddling in the election.

Speaking at the Munich Security Conference after the 13 Russians were charged, HR McMaster said: “With the FBI indictment, the evidence is now incontrovertible.”

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