Russia was preparing to undermine confidence in the United States’ voting process when its hackers surveilled around 20 state election systems in the run-up to the 2016 elections, the Senate Intelligence Committee concluded in a brief report released on Tuesday. But the committee said it saw no evidence that the Russians had ultimately changed vote tallies or voter registration information. In a few states, however, Russian hackers were “in a position to, at a minimum, alter or delete voter registration data,” the committee said. “These activities began at least as early as 2014, continued through Election Day 2016, and included traditional information-gathering efforts as well as operations likely aimed at preparing to discredit the integrity of the U.S. voting process and election results,” the senators wrote.
The Intelligence Committee has been investigating Russia’s election interference campaign for well over a year now. The findings and earlier recommendations related to election security amount to its first public conclusions based on that work.
Many of the committee’s findings have already been disclosed publicly, but they add new detail to the scope of the Russian efforts in states across the country and the continuing vulnerabilities of those systems.
The senators found that the Russians targeted at least 18 states, and said that there is evidence that they also went after three others, scanning them for vulnerabilities. In six states, they went further, trying to gain access to voting websites, and in “a small number of states” actually breached election computer defenses.