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Election Interference

Tracking interference into our elections

Shane Huntley has seen every form of state-sponsored cyberattack, first as an Australian intelligence officer and now as director of Google’s most advanced team of threat detectors. So when he was asked what surprised him the most about the 2018 midterm elections, his response was a bit counterintuitive. “The answer is surprisingly little on the hacking front, at least compared to two years ago.” He paused, and added: “And that reassures some people, and it scares some people.”

A new book makes a not very skeptical case for Russia’s impact on the 2016 race. In her new book, Cyberwar: How Russian Hackers and Trolls Helped Elect a President, Kathleen Hall Jamieson argues that the Russian-government directed interference campaign likely provided Donald Trump with his winning margin in the crucial states that allowed for his 2016 Electoral College victory. But in an election with so many moving parts, how can we really know, or even be confident, that the Russian operation made the difference?

the Justice Department announced that Russia and the world’s most interesting catering company continue to attack the United States online—and that Russian Twitter trolls had even defended the efforts of special counsel Robert Mueller earlier this year. Prosecutors unsealed a September criminal complaint against Elena Alekseevna Khusyaynova, a 44-year-old Russian woman from St. Petersburg. According to the charges, Khusyaynova is employed by the Internet Research Agency, the “troll farm” directed by a Russian oligarch known as “Putin’s Cook,” Yevgeniy Viktorovich Prigozhin, and two companies he controls, Concord Management and Consulting LLC, and Concord Catering. Those companies, in addition to handling school lunches for Russian children and overseeing the Internet Research Agency, also reportedly supply mercenaries to support Russia’s interests in the Syrian civil war.

The U.S. government warned about the continued threat of foreign interference on Friday as it unsealed a new criminal complaint against a Russian woman described as the paymistress for Moscow's program of information war — a scheme targeting next month's midterm elections in the U.S.

The Justice Department on Friday charged a Russian woman for her role in a conspiracy to interfere with the 2018 U.S. election, marking the first criminal case prosecutors have brought against a foreign national for interfering in the upcoming Midterms. Elena Khusyaynova, 44, was charged with conspiracy to defraud the United States. Prosecutors said she managed the finances of “Project Lakhta,” a foreign influence operation they said was designed “to sow discord in the U.S. political system” by pushing arguments and misinformation online about a whole host of divisive political issues, including immigration, the Confederate flag, gun control, and the NFL national anthem protests.The charges against Khusyaynova came just as the Office of the Director of National Intelligence warned that it was concerned about “ongoing campaigns” by Russia, China and Iran to interfere with the upcoming Midterm elections and even the 2020 race — an ominous warning that comes just weeks before voters head to the polls.

Complete coverage of Russia’s campaign to disrupt the 2016 presidential election.

Crystal's tweet praising the former first lady's Ivy League education was shared more than 120,000 times and liked by 325,000 users, according to a CNN analysis of data released by Twitter. In fact the post, the day after the awards show, went viral more than any tweet she and her colleagues ever posted. Her colleagues at Russian intelligence, that is. Crystal1Johnson," since suspended form the social media platform, was a fake Russian account run by the Internet Research Agency (IRA), according to Twitter. It's one of thousands released this week by Twitter as part of a huge 9-million-tweet collection of the Russian group's activities -- the most comprehensive accounting to date of the so-called IRA's efforts to use fake social media posts to inflame American society and influence its elections.

Here's a look at hacking incidents during the 2016 presidential campaign  and Russian meddling in the election. For details about investigations  into hacking and efforts to interfere with the election, see 2016 Presidential Election Investigation Fast Facts.  

The Russian government interfered in the 2016 U.S. presidential election in order to increase political instability in the United States and to damage Hillary Clinton's presidential campaign by bolstering the candidacies of Donald Trump, Bernie Sanders and Jill Stein. A January 2017 assessment by the Office of the Director of National Intelligence (ODNI) stated that Russian leadership favored presidential candidate Trump over Clinton, and that Russian president Vladimir Putin personally ordered an "influence campaign" to harm Clinton's chances and "undermine public faith in the US democratic process"
In the wake of the Mueller indictment of a Russian troll farm, any attempt to claim that the 2016 presidential election wasn’t affected by Russian meddling is laughable. For some time, there has been a conflation of issues—the hacking and leaking of illegally obtained information versus propaganda and disinformation; cyber-security issues and the hacking of elections systems versus information operations and information warfare; paid advertising versus coercive messaging or psychological operations—when discussing “Russian meddling” in the 2016 US elections. The refrain has become: “There is no evidence that Russian efforts changed any votes.” But the bombshell 37-page indictment issued Friday by Robert Mueller against Russia’s Internet Research Agency and its leadership and affiliates provides considerable detail on the Russian information warfare targeting the American public during the elections. And this information makes it increasingly difficult to say that the Kremlin's effort to impact the American mind did not succeed.

For two years, cybersecurity researchers, spies and federal prosecutors have laid out a stunningly thorough chain of evidence to support one simple conclusion: The Russian government sought to sway the 2016 presidential election. Federal agents have traced data and currency trails across continents, revealed inside knowledge of Russian spies’ computer network, and quoted the private emails of employees at a Russian internet firm working to influence voters. Cybersecurity researchers analyzed malware and followed clues buried in the details of stolen emails.

The Justice Department announced indictments against 12 Russian nationals as part of special counsel Robert Mueller's investigation of Russian interference in the 2016 election, accusing them of engaging in a "sustained effort" to hack Democrats' emails and computer networks. All 12 defendants are members of the GRU, a Russian federation intelligence agency within the main intelligence directorate of the Russian military, who were acting in "their official capacities."

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