Special counsel Robert Mueller’s latest indictment offers new details of just how deeply Russian operatives have infiltrated state and local election agencies across the U.S. — adding to years of warnings about the technologies that underpin American democracy. Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein said Friday that hackers within Russia’s GRU military intelligence service targeted state and local election boards, infiltrated a Florida-based company that supplies software for voting machines across the country, and broke into a state election website to steal sensitive information on about 500,000 American voters. While the FBI had issued warnings in 2016 about hackers breaching state election websites in Illinois and Arizona, the latest indictments in Mueller’s ongoing Russia probe surfaced the most granular account yet on foreign operatives’ efforts to tamper with U.S. election systems. Sen. James Lankford (R-Okla.) said the charges outline a Russian “attack on our democracy.”
“Today’s indictments are also another sign that we must enact election security legislation to protect our election infrastructure from attacks from foreign entities,” said Lankford, who is sponsoring a bipartisan bill to beef up U.S. election safeguards. The indictment says one defendant —Anatoliy Sergeyevich Kovalev, a Russian military officer who allegedly worked with the GRU — orchestrated attacks targeting “state and county offices responsible for administering the 2016 US. Elections.”
Russian operatives hacked into the website of an unidentified state board of election office, according to the charges, and stole sensitive personal information.
The Russians also breached an unidentified company that sells voter registration software and then pretended to be an employee of that company in “over 100” spear-phishing messages sent to election administrators in several Florida counties, according to the charges. That fits the narrative of a classified National Security Agency report published last year by The Intercept, which identified the vendor as Florida-based VR Systems.