As the November election nears, U.S. intelligence and law enforcement agencies are investigating what may be a covert Russian operation to create distrust in the upcoming presidential election.
The purpose of the investigation will be to understand the scope and intent of the Russian campaign and to understand Russian covert influence operations, the Washington Post reported Monday.This investigation comes shortly after the hack of voter databases in two states.
The campaign was described as “ambitious” and is reportedly designed to to counter U.S. leadership and influence in international affairs even if the intent isn't to sway election results, the Post said.
Officials, however, cautioned that there is not definitive proof of Russian interference or that the Russia has malicious plans, but noted that even the hint of malicious activity impacting the security of our election system is a significant concern.
On Monday, shortly after the report was published, Democratic presidential nominee Hillary Clinton accused the Kremlin of wanting to interfere with the U.S. election and implied that a Donald Trump victory could be viewed as a destabilizing event that would advance Russian interests.
Clinton referred to the acts as “almost unthinkable” as she implied Russian President Vladimir Putin is trying to tip the scales in Donald Trump's favor to weaken the U.S. and bolster Russian interests.
“We've never had the nominee of one of our major parties urging the Russians to hack,” Clinton said in a news conference according to the Post. “I want everyone — Democrat, Republican, Independent — to understand the real threat that this represents.”
“It is my hope that you will join me in opposing the NRCC (National Republican Congressional Committee) and the DCCC (Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee) from using any documents from Russian criminal cyber-attacks in this campaign,” House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) said in a Sept. 6 letter to Speaker of the House Paul Ryan. “Democrats and Republicans must present a united front in the face of Russia's attempts to tamper with the will of the American people.”
Last month, foreign hackers breached voter databases in two states following suspicions that Russian state-sponsored hackers were behind the July intrusions into systems belonging to the Democratic National Committee (DNC). The U.S. government has already extended an offer to provide aid and federal resources to assist and help mitigate cyber risks.
A group of Princeton researchers found that many voting machines, many in swing states, are becoming less secure each year however, voting machines at polling stations are not Internet-connected, and individual jurisdictions rely on vastly different systems and procedures to record votes meaning that there is no central vulnerability to exploit making a large scale attack very difficult to pull off.