Russia’s attempts to interfere with the 2016 U.S. election directly at the ballot box may have been more aggressive than we previously understood. The New York Times published an alarming investigation on Friday about hackers’ efforts to tamper with electoral systems and the government’s surprising lack of response to the threat. The article builds on revelations reported by the Intercept in June that Russia’s military intelligence agency had breached VR Systems, a company that provides electronic poll books to counties in eight states, beginning in August 2016. Hackers infiltrated at least two other unnamed companies providing essential election apparatuses like voter databases and registration operations in the months leading up to November, anonymous intelligence officials told the Times, and election systems in at least 21 states had been targeted. (In June, Bloomberg reported that Russian hackers had accessed election-related systems in 39 states. It’s unclear why the Times now estimates fewer states were penetrated.)
… The inactivity is largely due to resistance from county and state officials, who have rejected help from federal agencies such as the Department of Homeland Security. Some of these local governments adamantly deny there is proof of hacking, and they have fewer resources than the feds to conduct a sufficiently-thorough forensic analysis of their election software and equipment.
Independent electoral integrity watchdogs have been urging officials to more proactively look into the issue, to no avail. Some have been taking their concerns to the press. Susan Greenhalgh, who works for an election security organization called Verified Voting and figures prominently in today’s Timespiece, has also appeared in recent stories by the Daily Beast, NPR, and USA Today.