Russian interference in the 2018 United States elections

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Worldwide Threat Assessment that states Russia is targeting the 2018 US election

The United States Intelligence Community concluded in early 2018 that the Russian government was already attempting to influence the 2018 United States mid-term elections by generating discord through social media. Primaries for candidates of parties began in some states in March and would continue through September.[1] The leaders of intelligence agencies have noted that Russia is spreading disinformation through fake social media accounts in order to divide American society and foster anti-Americanism.[2][3]

Events

February

In February 2018 Director of National Intelligence Dan Coats said during congressional testimony that "the United States is under attack" from Russian efforts.[4] As of February 13, 2018, six US intelligence agencies unanimously assessed[5] that Russian hackers are scanning American electoral systems and using bot armies to promote partisan causes on social media.[6] Previously, Secretary of State Rex Tillerson also warned that Russia is interfering in the 2018 midterm election.[7]

In testimony before the Senate Intelligence Committee on February 13, Coats noted that voting in some elections will begin as early as March 2018 for primaries. He stated: "We need to inform the American public that this is real, that this is going to happen." At the same hearing, CIA Director Mike Pompeo told the committee that Russia has already been observed engaging in such tactics.[8]

March

During a March 6, 2018 press conference in the White House, President Trump was questioned on the topic of possible interference in the upcoming midterm election, responding “We won’t allow that to happen. We’re doing a very, very deep study, and we’re coming out with, I think, some very strong suggestions on the ’18 election," adding, “we’ll counteract whatever they do.”[9][10]

April

April 23, 2018 saw a report of a possible Russian hack of the website for State Senate candidate Kendall Scudder, a Dallas Democrat candidate. The hack attempted to redirect visitors to another site, and included text in Russian. The incident was reported to the FBI. [11]

May

In May 23, 2018, United States Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, in a committee hearing, warned that the US government was not protected from Russian interference in the 2018 midterms elections, saying, "No responsible government official would ever state that they have done enough to forestall any attack on the United States of America".[12]

July

On July 10, 2018, the Utah State Elections Director Justin Lee reported that the registration database in Utah recorded a huge uptick in hack attempts, upwards of one billion attempts per day (12,000/second) were seen after Mitt Romney announced his return to campaign for the Senate. Romney's views of Russia as the United States' "biggest geopolitical threat," were widely panned in the 2012 US presidential campaign, but mark him as one of few outspoken Republican opponents of Russian threats.[13][14]

A July 15 Business Insider article revealed a new Russian intelligence-linked "news" site, USAReally,[15] which follows in the footsteps of previous Russian IRA-backed troll farms, and appears to be an attempt to "test the waters" ahead of the mid-terms.[16]

Main article: WalkAway campaign

On July 17, commentator David A. Love said that the WalkAway social media campaign, originally created by New York resident Brandon Straka, had been co-opted by Russian bots in an attempt to discourage Democrats from voting in the mid-term elections, citing Hamilton 68.[17] He cited the #WalkAway hashtag as an example of astroturfing.

On July 20, Microsoft VP for Customer Security and Trust revealed at the Aspen Security Forum in Aspen, Colorado that Russian hackers had already specifically targeted three Congressional candidates running in the 2018 mid-term elections, using sophisticated spearphishing techniques spoofing a Microsoft website.[18]

On July 26, Missouri's Democratic Senator Claire McCaskill revealed that Russian hackers attempted to break into her Senate email account unsuccessfully,[19] confirming a report in The Daily Beast.[20]

On July 31, Facebook announced they had detected and removed 32 Pages and fake accounts being used for "coordinated inauthentic behavior,"[21] and was "working with the Federal Bureau of Investigation and other intelligence agencies" as reported in The New York Times.[22]

August

On August 2, 2018, the Director of National Intelligence, Dan Coats announced along with FBI Director Christopher A. Wray at a White House press conference that Russia is actively interfering in the 2018 elections, saying "It is real. It is ongoing."[23] Also on August 2, NPR reported that Democratic Senator Jeanne Shaheen reported to the FBI several attempts to compromise her campaign[24] including both spearphishing attempts on her staff, and a disturbing incident where someone called her offices "impersonating a Latvian official, trying to set up a meeting to talk to me about Russian sanctions and about Ukraine." Her opposition to Russian aggression and support of sanctions has placed her on an official Russian blacklist.[25]

On August 6, Democratic candidate Tabitha Isner, running for Alabama's 2nd congressional district, reported[26] 1,300+ unsuccessful attempts to break into her campaign website from Russian sourced IP addresses, mostly happening between July 17–18, prompting additional website security measures.

On August 8, Florida Senator Bill Nelson told the Tampa Bay Times that Russian operatives have penetrated some of Florida's election systems ahead of the 2018 midterm elections. "They have already penetrated certain counties in the state and they now have free rein to move about," Nelson told the newspaper. He also stated that more detailed information is classified.[27] The Russian hackers may be able to prevent some voters from casting votes by removing people from the voter rolls.[28]

October

On October 19, the Department of Justice charged Russian accountant Elena Khusyaynova with attempting to interfere with the midterm elections. She was involved with handling the money for Internet Research Agency and related entities who had previously been charged with interfering in the 2016 elections.[29]

See also

References

  1. ^ Rosenberg, Matthew; Fandos, Nicholas (February 13, 2018). "Russia Sees Midterm Elections as Chance to Sow Fresh Discord, Intelligence Chiefs Warn". The New York Times. ISSN 0362-4331. Retrieved February 13, 2018.
  2. ^ "Intelligence chiefs say they're seeing signs of Russian meddling in America's upcoming midterm elections". Pittsburgh Post-Gazette. Retrieved February 14, 2018.
  3. ^ "Top intelligence chiefs issue a dire warning about the Kremlin's ongoing efforts to influence the US, defend against Trump's attacks on the FBI, and explain what happened with a shady Russian offering dirt on Trump". Business Insider. Retrieved February 14, 2018.
  4. ^ Schlesinger, Robert (February 13, 2018). "'Frankly, the United States Is Under Attack': U.S. intelligence chiefs warn of Russian 2018 election interference about which Trump remains unmoved". U.S. News & World Report. Retrieved February 13, 2018.
  5. ^ Herb, Jeremy. "US intel chiefs unanimous that Russia is targeting 2018 elections". CNN. Retrieved February 15, 2018.
  6. ^ Rosenberg, Matthew; Fandos, Nicholas (February 13, 2018). "Russia Sees Midterm Elections as Chance to Sow Fresh Discord, Intelligence Chiefs Warn". The New York Times. ISSN 0362-4331. Retrieved February 14, 2018.
  7. ^ "Russia already meddling in U.S. midterm elections, Tillerson says". USA TODAY. Retrieved February 14, 2018.
  8. ^ Hennigan, W. J. (February 13, 2018). "Russia Is Already Trying to Undermine the 2018 Elections, Top Spies Say". TIME. Retrieved February 17, 2018.
  9. ^ "Trump vows to counteract any Russian interference in 2018 elections". Washington Post. March 6, 2018. Retrieved March 11, 2018.
  10. ^ "Trump Says U.S. Working To Counteract Russian Election Interference In 2018 Midterms". NPR.org. March 6, 2018. Retrieved March 11, 2018.
  11. ^ "Russian hackers may have targeted a Democrat's Texas Senate campaign website | 2018 Elections". Dallas News. April 23, 2018. Retrieved August 13, 2018.
  12. ^ Cohen, Zachary (May 23, 2018). "Pompeo says the US has not done enough to protect 2018 elections - CNNPolitics". Cnn.com. Retrieved August 13, 2018.
  13. ^ Raymond, Art (July 10, 2018). "Mitt Romney on ticket helps boost nefarious web traffic to 1B daily". Deseret News. Retrieved August 13, 2018.
  14. ^ Greene, Tristan (July 12, 2018). "Hackers attack Utah's online voter database more than a billion times a day". Thenextweb.com. Retrieved August 13, 2018.
  15. ^ Roose, Kevin, Is a New Russian Meddling Tactic Hiding in Plain Sight?, New York Times, September 25, 2018
  16. ^ Davlashyan, Naira; Charlton, Angela (July 15, 2018). "Russian bots, trolls test waters ahead of US midterms". Business Insider. Associated Press. Retrieved August 13, 2018.
  17. ^ Love, David A. (July 17, 2018). "Russian bots are using #WalkAway to try to wound Democrats in the midterms". CNN. Retrieved August 13, 2018.
  18. ^ Fox-Brewster, Thomas (July 20, 2018). "Microsoft: Russian Hackers Are Targeting The Midterms". Forbes.com. Retrieved August 13, 2018.
  19. ^ Watkins, Eli (July 26, 2018). "Claire McCaskill says attempted Russia hacking on her office 'not successful' - CNNPolitics". CNN. Retrieved August 13, 2018.
  20. ^ Desiderio, Andrew; Poulsen, Kevin (July 26, 2018). "Russian Hackers' New Target: a Vulnerable Democratic Senator". The Daily Beast. Retrieved August 13, 2018.
  21. ^ "Removing Bad Actors on Facebook". Facebook Newsroom. July 31, 2018. Retrieved August 13, 2018.
  22. ^ Fandos, Nicholas; Roose, Kevin (July 31, 2018). "Facebook Identifies an Active Political Influence Campaign Using Fake Accounts". The New York Times. Retrieved August 13, 2018.
  23. ^ Stewart, Emily (August 2, 2018). "The US intel chief just said Russian interference is "continuing"". Vox. Retrieved August 13, 2018.
  24. ^ Mak, Tim (August 2, 2018). "This Is 'Not Fine': New Evidence Of Russian Interference Meets Inaction, Frustration". NPR. Retrieved August 13, 2018.
  25. ^ Desiderio, Andrew; Poulsen, Kevin (July 30, 2018). "Mystery Sting Targets U.S. Senator for Dirt on Russia Sanctions". The Daily Beast. Retrieved August 13, 2018.
  26. ^ "Martha Roby challenger Tabitha Isner says Russians tried to hack her website 1,300 times". AL.com. August 6, 2018. Retrieved August 13, 2018.
  27. ^ Leary, Alex; Bousquet, Steve; Wilson, Kirby (August 8, 2018). "Bill Nelson: The Russians have penetrated some Florida voter registration systems". Tampa Bay Times. Retrieved August 8, 2018.
  28. ^ Diaz, Daniella (August 9, 2018). "Bill Nelson: Russians 'penetrated' Florida voter registration systems - CNNPolitics". Cnn.com. Retrieved August 13, 2018.
  29. ^ "The DOJ has charged a Russian woman working for a close Putin ally with conspiring to interfere in the 2018 midterms". Business Insider. October 19, 2018.
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