SAN FRANCISCO – Russian hackers and propagandists who interfered in the 2016 US presidential election didn’t stop when it was over. They’re still trying to influence the vote, and now they’re being joined by other countries hoping to influence the midterms, according to the US Department of Homeland Security and other agencies.
Two years ago, hackers were caught trying to break into voter registration databases and other election infrastructure in at least 21 states during the race between Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton. They also infiltrated email accounts of two major organizations run by the Democratic party, as well as the private emails of members of Clinton’s campaign.
And they leaked thousands of emails to WikiLeaks and other websites, as well as members of the press, to sway public opinion and mislead voters into picking one candidate over another.
That was on top of the misinformation campaign by professional internet trolls who created American personas on the most widely used social media sites, including Facebook, Twitter and Instagram, posting false news stories and helping plan real-world protests. Earlier this year, US special prosecutor Robert Mueller charged members of a Russian spy agency and people involved in running or working at Russia’s Internet Research Agency of crimes relating to the alleged campaign.
While hackers haven’t been as busy in the lead-up to the 2018 midterm elections as they were, US intelligence agencies and DHS — which is tasked with helping state and local elections agencies keep their systems secure — warn that hackers are still active in their efforts to breach election infrastructure.
“The intelligence community continues to be concerned about the threats [toward] upcoming US elections,” Dan Coats, director of national intelligence, said at a press briefing in August, “both the midterms and the presidential elections of 2020.”
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