National: Why the G.O.P. Voter Data Leak Is Scarier than It Seems | Vanity Fair

Facebook and Google aren’t the only companies hoovering up every kilobyte of our digital lives—our late-night shopping habits, social-media posts, travel plans, and celebrity obsessions—and turning that personal data into dollar signs. As the recent leak of nearly 200 million voter profiles shows, political analytics companies are major players in the Big Data space, too—and their methods, if not their security protocols, are getting ever more sophisticated. The terabyte of data that Gizmodo reports Deep Root Analytics left on a cloud server, without password protection, included “home addresses, birth dates, and phone numbers,” along with “advanced-sentiment analyses used by political groups to predict where individual voters fall on hot-button issues such as gun ownership, stem-cell research, and the right to abortion, as well as suspected religious affiliation and ethnicity.” Even more worrying, some of the firm’s voter-registration data was cross-referenced against Reddit users’ profiles, suggesting a wide-ranging, multi-platform effort to build psychological profiles of American citizens. None of this is illegal, nor is it clear whether such information is particularly useful. Gizmodo reports show that the Republican National Committee paid Deep Root $983,000 last year, and that other conservative groups paid millions more. But as The New York Times revealed last year, preference-prediction software peddled by companies like Cambridge Analytica is still an imperfect science.

National: US Election Officials, Cybersecurity Experts to Testify on Russian Hacking | VoA News

Just how extensively Russia penetrated state election systems across America last year and how to prevent a repeat will be the focus of an extensive public hearing by the Senate Intelligence Committee on Wednesday. “We’re trying to focus on all aspects — the aggressive nature of Russia’s attempt to hack all the way down to the state level,” the committee’s chairman, Republican Richard Burr of North Carolina, told VOA. The panel will hear from cybersecurity and counterintelligence officials at the FBI and the Department of Homeland Security, as well as state election officials and a representative of America’s secretaries of state for all 50 states — officials who are tasked with certifying elections.

National: Some States Beat Supreme Court to Punch on Eliminating Gerrymanders | The New York Times

When Wisconsin Republicans last redrew the State Legislature’s district boundaries, in 2011, they set off a multimillion-dollar legal battle over accusations of gerrymandering that this week was granted a potentially historic hearing by the Supreme Court. Then there is California, which redrew its state legislative and congressional districts the same year with far less rancor. California is the largest of a handful of states that are trying to minimize the partisanship in the almost invariably political act of drawing district lines. California has handed that task to the independent and politically balanced California Citizens Redistricting Commission, and Arizona has a somewhat similar commission. Florida has amended its Constitution to forbid partisanship in drawing new districts. Iowa has offloaded the job to the nonpartisan state agency that drafts bills and performs other services for legislators.

National: A Republican contractor’s database of nearly every voter was left exposed on the Internet for 12 days, researcher says | The Washington Post

A Republican analytics firm’s database of nearly every registered American voter was left vulnerable to theft on a public server for 12 days this month, according to a cybersecurity researcher who found and downloaded the trove of data. The lapse in security was striking for putting at risk the identities, voting histories and views of voters across the political spectrum, with data drawn from a wide range of sources including social media, public government records and proprietary polling by political groups. Chris Vickery, a risk analyst at cybersecurity firm UpGuard, said he found a spreadsheet of nearly 200 million Americans on a server run by Amazon’s cloud hosting business that was left without a password or any other protection. Anyone with Internet access who found the server could also have downloaded the entire file.

National: Supreme court to decide whether state gerrymandering violates constitution | The Guardian

The US supreme court on Monday agreed to decide whether electoral maps drawn deliberately to favor a particular political party are acceptable under the constitution, in a case that could have huge consequences for future US elections. The justices will take up Wisconsin’s appeal of a lower court ruling that said state Republican lawmakers had violated the constitution when they created legislative districts with the aim of hobbling Democrats. The case will be one of the biggest heard in the supreme court term that begins in October. Last November, federal judges in Madison ruled 2-1 that the Republican-led Wisconsin legislature’s redrawing of legislative districts in 2011 amounted to “an unconstitutional partisan gerrymander”, a manipulation of electoral boundaries for unfair political advantage. The judges said the redrawing violated constitutional guarantees of equal protection under the law and free speech by undercutting the ability of Democratic voters to turn their votes into seats in the Wisconsin state legislature.

National: There’s No Way to Know How Compromised U.S. Elections Are | The Atlantic

It’s not really all that hard to hack American democracy. That fact should be driven home by a recent article from The Intercept detailing the contents of a highly classified NSA report that found evidence of a massive Russian cyberattack on voting software and against over 100 election officials. While the NSA concluded the attack was carried out by the most sophisticated of hackers—the Russian military—their entry methods were relatively vanilla. They gained access to the credentials and documents of a voting system vendor via a spear-phishing attack, and then used those credentials and documents to launch a second spear-phishing attack on local elections officials, which if successful could have compromised election officials’ systems and whatever voter data they possessed.

National: Justices could take up high-stakes fight over electoral maps | Associated Press

In an era of deep partisan division, the Supreme Court could soon decide whether the drawing of electoral districts can be too political. A dispute over Wisconsin’s Republican-drawn boundaries for the state legislature offers Democrats some hope of cutting into GOP electoral majorities across the United States. Election law experts say the case is the best chance yet for the high court to put limits on what lawmakers may do to gain a partisan advantage in creating political district maps. The justices could say as early as Monday whether they will intervene. The Constitution requires states to redo their political maps to reflect population changes identified in the once-a-decade census. The issue of gerrymandering — creating districts that often are oddly shaped and with the aim of benefiting one party — is centuries old. The term comes from a Massachusetts state Senate district that resembled a salamander and was approved in 1812 by Massachusetts Gov. Elbridge Gerry.

National: If Voting Machines Were Hacked, Would Anyone Know? | NPR

As new reports emerge about Russian-backed attempts to hack state and local election systems, U.S. officials are increasingly worried about how vulnerable American elections really are. While the officials say they see no evidence that any votes were tampered with, no one knows for sure. Voters were assured repeatedly last year that foreign hackers couldn’t manipulate votes because, with few exceptions, voting machines are not connected to the Internet. “So how do you hack something in cyberspace, when it’s not in cyberspace?” Louisiana Secretary of State Tom Schedler said shortly before the 2016 election. But even if most voting machines aren’t connected to the Internet, says cybersecurity expert Jeremy Epstein, “they are connected to something that’s connected to something that’s connected to the Internet.” … While it’s unclear if any of the recipients took the bait in the email attack, University of Michigan computer scientist Alex Halderman says it’s just the kind of phishing campaign someone would launch if they wanted to manipulate votes.

National: Russian Cyber Hacks on U.S. Electoral System Far Wider Than Previously Known | Bloomberg

Russia’s cyberattack on the U.S. electoral system before Donald Trump’s election was far more widespread than has been publicly revealed, including incursions into voter databases and software systems in almost twice as many states as previously reported. In Illinois, investigators found evidence that cyber intruders tried to delete or alter voter data. The hackers accessed software designed to be used by poll workers on Election Day, and in at least one state accessed a campaign finance database. Details of the wave of attacks, in the summer and fall of 2016, were provided by three people with direct knowledge of the U.S. investigation into the matter. In all, the Russian hackers hit systems in a total of 39 states, one of them said.

National: What Congress is doing to stop Russian hackers next time | CSMonitor

In the past week, a series of dramatic congressional hearings have sought to plumb possible collusion between the Trump campaign and Russia – or possible presidential obstruction of justice over the matter, which special counsel Robert Mueller is now reportedly investigating. But this spotlight, while an important line of questioning into last year’s interference, overshadows other steps that Congress is taking to prevent Russian meddling in future elections. Absent an administration that is staffed up or a president inclined to go hard on Moscow, Congress is looking to define its own strategy. “We don’t really have a Russia strategy” to prevent a repeat of election meddling, says James Lewis, a senior fellow at the Center for Strategic and International Studies in Washington. “Congress is trying to figure out what that should be.” Specifically, it’s looking at several areas: sanctions, what exactly Russia did in the last election and appropriate countermeasures, and US digital defenses.

National: Special counsel Robert Mueller is investigating Donald Trump for possible obstruction of justice, officials say | The Washington Post

The special counsel overseeing the investigation into Russia’s role in the 2016 election is interviewing senior intelligence officials as part of a widening probe that now includes an examination of whether President Trump attempted to obstruct justice, officials said. The move by special counsel Robert S. Mueller III to investigate Trump’s conduct marks a major turning point in the nearly year-old FBI investigation, which until recently focused on Russian meddling during the presidential campaign and on whether there was any coordination between the Trump campaign and the Kremlin. Investigators have also been looking for any evidence of possible financial crimes among Trump associates, officials said.

National: Senate overwhelmingly passes Russia sanctions deal with new limits on Trump | Politico

The Senate on Wednesday overwhelmingly approved a bipartisan package of new Russia sanctions that also lets Congress block President Donald Trump from easing or ending penalties against Moscow, the year’s most significant GOP-imposed restriction on the White House. The 97-2 vote on the Russia sanctions plan capped a week of talks that demonstrated cross-aisle collaboration that’s become increasingly rare as Trump and the GOP push to repeal Obamacare without any Democratic votes. Senators merged the sanctions package with a bipartisan Iran sanctions bill that’s on track for passage as soon as this week, complicating the politics of any future veto threat from the Trump administration. “It’s particularly significant that a bipartisan coalition is seeking to reestablish Congress, not the president, as the final arbiter of sanctions relief, considering that this administration has been too eager — far too eager, in my mind — to put sanctions relief on the table,” Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.), who pressed hard for the strongest possible anti-Russia bill, said in a floor speech. “These additional sanctions will also send a powerful, bipartisan statement that Russia and any other nation who might try to interfere with our elections will be punished.”

National: Sessions’s testimony highlights Trump’s deep lack of interest in what Russia did in 2016 | The Washington Post

Sen. James E. Risch (R-Idaho) made a comment during the Senate Intelligence Committee’s questioning of Attorney General Jeff Sessions that has an obvious exception. “I don’t think there’s any American,” Risch said, “who would disagree with the fact that we need to drill down to this” — that is, Russian meddling in the 2016 election — “know what happened, get it out in front of the American people and do what we can to stop it again.” There is one American, at least, who seems generally uninterested in that need: Sessions’s boss, President Trump.

National: Russia Could Hack 2020 Election, Too, Report Says—39 States Hit in 2016 | Newsweek

The 2016 elections may have just been the beginning. Russian hackers attacked voter databases and software systems in 39 states during last year’s elections, and authorities fear that while the tampering may not have affected vote totals, it’s possible Russia learned enough from the attacks to put 2020’s presidential election in its crosshairs, sources with knowledge of the U.S. investigation told Bloomberg. The report, published Tuesday morning, said Illinois investigators discovered that hackers attempted to delete or alter voter data in the state’s voter database. (California and Florida were the only other states directly mentioned.) The Illinois database held some 15 million names—half were active voters—and 90,000 records were potentially compromised.

National: Russia’s already done some of the damage to American elections that it sought | The Washington Post

There are two documents created during the 2016 election cycle that help detail precisely how American electoral systems are secured. The first was a letter written by the Florida State Association of Supervisors of Elections explaining how the state secured its voters’ choices. Florida uses paper ballots, which are scanned on devices that are not connected to the Internet or to each other and each of which is tested before Election Day. The tally from those machines is transmitted to the state with several layers of encryption, and is backed up with and verified against thumb drives that are digitally secured. Those tallies are then verified against the machines themselves.

National: New Bipartisan Sanctions Would Punish Russia for Election Meddling | The New York Times

Senate leaders said they had reached an agreement late on Monday to approve new sanctions against Russia for interfering in the 2016 presidential election and for the country’s conduct in Ukraine and Syria, delivering a striking message to a foreign power that continues to shadow President Trump. The bipartisan measure would place the White House in an uncomfortable position, arriving amid sweeping investigations into ties between Mr. Trump’s associates and Russia. The sanctions package would also cut against the administration’s stated aim to reshape the United States’ relationship with Russia after Mr. Trump took office.

National: Russian Breach of 39 States Threatens Future U.S. Elections | Bloomberg

Russia’s cyberattack on the U.S. electoral system before Donald Trump’s election was far more widespread than has been publicly revealed, including incursions into voter databases and software systems in almost twice as many states as previously reported. In Illinois, investigators found evidence that cyber intruders tried to delete or alter voter data. The hackers accessed software designed to be used by poll workers on Election Day, and in at least one state accessed a campaign finance database. Details of the wave of attacks, in the summer and fall of 2016, were provided by three people with direct knowledge of the U.S. investigation into the matter. In all, the Russian hackers hit systems in a total of 39 states, one of them said.

National: Friend Says Trump Is Considering Firing Mueller as Special Counsel | The New York Times

A longtime friend of President Trump said on Monday that Mr. Trump was considering whether to fire Robert S. Mueller III, the special counsel investigating possible ties between the president’s campaign and Russian officials. The startling assertion comes as some of Mr. Trump’s conservative allies, who initially praised Mr. Mueller’s selection as special counsel, have begun trying to attack his credibility. The friend, Christopher Ruddy, the chief executive of Newsmax Media, who was at the White House on Monday, said on PBS’s “NewsHour” that Mr. Trump was “considering, perhaps, terminating the special counsel.” “I think he’s weighing that option,” Mr. Ruddy said.

National: Sessions will testify in open hearing Tuesday before Senate Intelligence Committee | The Washington Post

Attorney General Jeff Sessions’s appearance Tuesday before the Senate Intelligence Committee will be a high-stakes test for a Trump official who has kept a low profile even as he has become a central figure in the scandal engulfing the White House over Russia and the firing of James B. Comey as FBI director. Sessions, a former Republican senator from Alabama, will face tough questions from his former colleagues on a number of fronts that he has never had to publicly address in detail. Democrats plan to ask about his contacts during the 2016 campaign with the Russian ambassador to the United States, Sergey Kislyak, which the attorney general failed to disclose fully during his confirmation hearing.

National: New Bipartisan Sanctions Would Punish Russia for Election Meddling | The New York Times

Senate leaders said they had reached an agreement late on Monday to approve new sanctions against Russia for interfering in the 2016 presidential election and for the country’s conduct in Ukraine and Syria, delivering a striking message to a foreign power that continues to shadow President Trump. The bipartisan measure would place the White House in an uncomfortable position, arriving amid sweeping investigations into ties between Mr. Trump’s associates and Russia. The sanctions package would also cut against the administration’s stated aim to reshape the United States’ relationship with Russia after Mr. Trump took office.

National: Trump-Comey Feud Eclipses a Warning on Russia: ‘They Will Be Back’ | The New York Times

Lost in the showdown between President Trump and James B. Comey that played out this past week was a chilling threat to the United States. Mr. Comey, the former director of the F.B.I., testified that the Russians had not only intervened in last year’s election, but would try to do it again. “It’s not a Republican thing or Democratic thing — it really is an American thing,” Mr. Comey told the Senate Intelligence Committee. “They’re going to come for whatever party they choose to try and work on behalf of. And they’re not devoted to either, in my experience. They’re just about their own advantage. And they will be back.” What started out as a counterintelligence investigation to guard the United States against a hostile foreign power has morphed into a political scandal about what Mr. Trump did, what he said and what he meant by it. Lawmakers have focused mainly on the gripping conflict between the president and the F.B.I. director he fired with cascading requests for documents, recordings and hearings.

National: Sessions Will Testify in Senate on Russian Meddling in Election | The New York Times

Attorney General Jeff Sessions told Congress on Saturday that he would testify before the Senate Intelligence Committee on Tuesday about issues related to Russia’s interference in the 2016 election. Mr. Sessions had been scheduled to testify before other committees about the Justice Department’s budget that day, but he will instead appear before the intelligence panel. Mr. Sessions said he would send Rod J. Rosenstein, the deputy attorney general, to testify about the department’s budget before the House and Senate appropriations panels. Mr. Sessions noted that several lawmakers on those panels had said they intended to ask him about the Russia investigation, after testimony by James B. Comey, who was fired last month as F.B.I. director by President Trump, before the intelligence committee on Thursday.

National: A brief history of Russia’s digital meddling in foreign elections shows disturbing progress. | WIRED

Just when the cybersecurity world thinks it’s found the limits of how far Russian hackers will go to meddle in foreign elections, a new clue emerges that suggests another line has been crossed. Even now, nearly a year after news first broke that Russian hackers had breached the Democratic National Committee and published its internal files, a leaked NSA document pointing to Russian attempts to hack a voting-tech firm has again redefined the scope of the threat. Taken with the recent history of Russia’s digital fingerprints on foreign elections, it points to a disturbing trend: Moscow’s habit of hacking democratic processes has only gotten more aggressive and technically focused over time. … As revealed in the Intercept’s leaked NSA report, hackers believed to be working for Russia’s GRU military agency—the same agency tied to the group known as Fancy Bear or APT28—sent phishing emails to VR Systems, the makers of hardware and code used to handle voter sign-ins at polling places in eight US states. Senate Intelligence committee vice chairman Mark Warner followed up by telling USA Today on Tuesday that the extent of the attacks were in fact much broader than anyone has yet reported. And US intelligence agencies had already implicated the Kremlin for breaches of the websites of the boards of election for Arizona and Illinois.

National: Forget Comey. The Real Story Is Russia’s War on America | Politico

It was a breezy, surprisingly pleasant summer week in Washington as the frenzy around potential Trump-Russia revelations reached near-carnival levels. On Thursday, brightly clad groups scattered across the lawns of Capitol Hill could almost have been picnickers — if not for the mounds of cable leashing them to nearby satellite trucks. Every news studio in D.C. seemed to have spilled forth into the jarring sunlight, eager for the best live backdrop to the spectacle that awaited. Bars opened early for live viewing of former FBI Director James Comey’s testimony before the Senate Select Intelligence Committee. Political ads against Comey — who isn’t running for anything — aired during coverage of the hearing, often back-to-back with vibrant ads praising President Trump’s first foreign trip, where he “[united] forces for good against evil.” Only D.C.’s usually opportunistic T-shirt printers seemed to have missed the cue, forced to display the usual tourist “FBI” fare in rainbow spectrum but offering no specialty knitwear for the occasion. The conversion of America’s political arena into a hybrid sporting event/reality show was nonetheless near complete.

National: Top-Secret NSA Report Details Russian Hacking Effort Days Before 2016 Election | The Intercept

Russian military intelligence executed a cyberattack on at least one U.S. voting software supplier and sent spear-phishing emails to more than 100 local election officials just days before last November’s presidential election, according to a highly classified intelligence report obtained by The Intercept. The top-secret National Security Agency document, which was provided anonymously to The Intercept and independently authenticated, analyzes intelligence very recently acquired by the agency about a months-long Russian intelligence cyber effort against elements of the U.S. election and voting infrastructure. The report, dated May 5, 2017, is the most detailed U.S. government account of Russian interference in the election that has yet come to light. While the document provides a rare window into the NSA’s understanding of the mechanics of Russian hacking, it does not show the underlying “raw” intelligence on which the analysis is based. A U.S. intelligence officer who declined to be identified cautioned against drawing too big a conclusion from the document because a single analysis is not necessarily definitive.

National: Comey Says Russian Hackers Targeted ‘Hundreds’ of Election-Related Entities, and the Real Number ‘Could Be More Than 1,000’ | Nextgov

At the Senate Intelligence Committee hearing Thursday, committee Chairman Richard Burr asked James Comey to describe the scope of Russian-led “cyber intrusions” that took place during the 2016 election season. There was “a massive effort to target government and non-governmental—near governmental—agencies like nonprofits,” said Comey, the former FBI director. “What would be the estimate of how many entities out there the Russians specifically targeted in that time frame?” Burr asked. “It’s hundreds,” Comey said. “I suppose it could be more than 1,000, but it’s at least hundreds.”

National: Leaked NSA hacking report ratchets up pressure on local election officials | Cyberscoop

Despite new evidence from a leaked NSA report that Russian hackers sought to compromise state and local election technology, the officials in charge are still vigorously opposing the federal designation of their polling systems as critical infrastructure. “It’s unclear how this situation would change anyone’s opinions about the [critical infrastructure] designation,” Kay Stimson of the National Association of Secretaries of State told CyberScoop. NASS represents the state-level officials responsible for certifying statewide election results. Stimson added that officials didn’t get any additional resources to defend their networks as a result of the January 2017 announcement by the Department of Homeland Security, which many saw as a federal power grab. Federal officials have stressed that state or local participation in any DHS programs is voluntary, and suggested that DHS expertise might be able to help election officials secure themselves against online attacks.

National: Experts Warned About Voting Vulnerability At Center Of NSA Leak | Vocativ

The leaked NSA document published by The Intercept on Monday revealed a report that Russian military actors attacked one of the most especially vulnerable aspects of the American voting system: online voting registration databases. The classified document was leaked to the press by a 25-year-old intelligence contractor who has been arrested by the Department of Justice. The five-page report, which the AP has yet to authenticate, details a cyberattack that began in August 2016. The document does not reveal whether or not the Russian attempts at were successful, nor does it address if it could have affected voting outcomes in the presidential election. It does, however, validate the concerns of cybersecurity experts who have long considered the possibility of this type of attack as a potential threat to our voting process’ security.

National: Experts surprised by extent of Russian election meddling, demand voting security for 2018 | SC Magazine

The leak of a classified NSA document confirming that Russian military intelligence interfered with the 2016 U.S. presidential race has reinforced the need to fix vulnerabilities in America’s voting infrastructure before the next election cycle, say experts who expressed dismay over the reported intricacy of the Kremlin’s campaign. According to the leaked report, which was dated May 5 and published yesterday by The Intercept, the Russian General Staff Main Intelligence Directorate, or GRU, launched a spoofing attack against an unnamed electronic voting vendor, in order to get access to that company’s data and internal systems. Next, the GRU hackers (often referred to as the APT Fancy Bear) sent various government employees spear phishing emails that appeared to be from this e-voting vendor, but in actuality contained attachments that infected machines with malware. … J. Alex Halderman, director of the Center for Computer Security & Society at the University of Michigan’s College of Engineering, said that Russia’s spearphishing plot “raises an enormous number of questions about how far they got [and] if other vendors were attacked that haven’t been detected or announced yet, about what they were trying to do, and about whether they succeeded” in their ultimate objective.

National: Leaked Documents Show US Vote Hacking Risks | AFP

Security experts have warned for years that hackers could penetrate electronic voting systems, and now, leaked national security documents suggest a concerted effort to do just that in the 2016 US election. An intelligence report revealed this week showed a cyberattack that targeted more than 100 local election officials and software vendors, raising the prospect of an attempt, possibly led by Russia, to manipulate votes. … Hacking elections “has always been thought of as a theoretical possibility, but now we know it is a real threat,” said Susan Greenhalgh, a researcher with the Verified Voting Foundation, an election systems monitor. “We need to ensure our voting systems are resilient going into 2018 and 2020” elections, she added.