Russia May Have Already Hacked the 2018 Midterms

It's possible the Russians perfected their attacks on electronic voting machines in the 2016 elections without tipping their hand.
PER_RussiaHack_01 Source: Illustration by Alex Fine

It’s not easy to get in to see Diane Ellis-Marseglia, one of three commissioners who run Bucks County, Pennsylvania. Security is tight at the Government Administration Building on 55 East Court Street in Doylestown, a three-story brick structure with no windows, where she has an office. It also happens to be where officials retreat on election night to tally the votes recorded on the county’s 900 or so voting machines. Guards at the door X-ray bags and scan each visitor with a wand.

Unfortunately, Russian hackers won’t need to come calling on Election Day. Cyberexperts warn that they could use more sophisticated means of changing the outcomes of close races or sowing confusion in an effort to throw the U.S. elections into disrepute. The 2018 midterms offer a compelling target: a patchwork of 3,000 or so county governments that administer elections, often on a shoestring budget, many of them with outdated electronic voting machines vulnerable to manipulation. With Democrats on track to take control of the U.S. House of Representatives and perhaps even the Senate, the ­political stakes are high.

Russian hackers were notoriously active in the 2016 election. Although President Donald Trump disputes it, evidence suggests that they were responsible for breaking into the Democratic National Committee’s computers, according to U.S. intelligence reports. They ran a disinformation campaign on Facebook and Twitter. They also attacked voter registration databases in 21 states, election management systems in 39 states and at least one election software vendor—and that’s only what the government’s intelligence services know about.

Although there’s no evidence that these attacks resulted in direct changes in vote tallies, cybersecurity experts fear that the Russians may have already made inroads into the U.S. election system, including planting malware—malicious computer programs—in the voting machines themselves. States and counties have reacted so slowly to the threat that secure voting machines aren’t going to be in place

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