TR Daily Mueller Report: Russia Hacked Election Vendors, Offices
Thursday, April 18, 2019

Mueller Report: Russia Hacked Election Vendors, Offices

The Russian government’s effort to influence the outcome of the 2016 presidential election included cyber attacks on “computers belonging to state boards of elections, secretaries of state, and U.S. companies that supplied software and other technology related to the administration of U.S. elections,” according to a report made public today by the Department of Justice.

A redacted version of the “Report on the Investigation Into Russian Interference in the 2016 Presidential Election,” prepared by Special Counsel Robert Mueller, was released today by Attorney General William Barr for public and congressional consumption.

The report described a “sweeping and systematic” attempt at election interference by the Russian government but said investigators had no evidence that the Russian effort was aided by the Trump campaign. It details extensive cyber operations designed to undermine the campaign of Hillary Clinton, the Democratic candidate, and efforts to hack into election systems.

Personnel from Russia’s military intelligence branch, the GRU, “sent spearphishing e-mails to public officials involved in election administration and personnel at companies involved in voting technology,” the report said.

“In August 2016, GRU officers targeted employees of [redacted], a voting technology company that developed software used by numerous U.S. counties to manage voter rolls, and installed malware on the company network,” it said.

“Similarly, in November 2016, the GRU sent spearphishing e-mails to over 120 e-mail accounts used by Florida county officials responsible for administering the 2016 U.S. election. The spearphishing e-mails contained an attached Word document coded with malicious software (commonly referred to as a Trojan) that permitted the GRU to access the infected computer,” it said.

The report indicated that the Federal Bureau of Investigation believed that the GRU was able to gain access to the network of at least one county government in Florida, but the special counsel “did not independently verify that belief and . . . did not undertake the investigative steps that would have been necessary to do so.” The report suggested that the FBI and Department of Homeland Security were continuing to investigate some instances of Russian cyber attacks on state and local government networks.

In another instance, in June 2016 the GRU “compromised the computer network of the Illinois State Board of Elections by exploiting a vulnerability in the SBOE’s website. The GRU then gained access to a database containing information on millions of registered Illinois voters and extracted data related to thousands of U.S. voters before the malicious activity was identified,” according to the report.

The report also reiterates what has been known regarding Russian activities — that the Russian government orchestrated a social media disinformation campaign, hacked into networks of the Democratic National Committee and other Democratic political entities, and arranged for embarrassing details about Ms. Clinton and her associates to be published. But it said it could not establish that the Trump camp conspired with the Russian government.

“The social media campaign and the GRU hacking operations coincided with a series of contacts between Trump campaign officials and individuals with ties to the Russian government. The [special counsel’s] office investigated whether those contacts reflected or resulted in the campaign conspiring or coordinating with Russia in its election-interference activities,” it said.

“Although the investigation established that the Russian government perceived it would benefit from a Trump presidency and worked to secure that outcome, and that the campaign expected it would benefit electorally from information stolen and released through Russian efforts, the investigation did not establish that members of the Trump campaign conspired or coordinated with the Russian government in its election-interference activities,” it said.

The report is likely to be the subject of numerous congressional hearings featuring testimony by Messrs. Barr and Mueller. —Tom Leithauser, [email protected]

MainStory: Cybersecurity FederalNews Congress

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