What We Now Know About Russia’s Cyber Attack on America (VIDEOS)

by Frank Vyan Walton –

There has been a lot of news about Russia lately and it’s worth while to put that information in some level of perspective.

It’s now been confirmed by the Washington Post that Vladimir Putin personally ordered this attack, a fact that was first hinted at on January 6th when U.S. intel first published their report on the Russian attack.  We now understand that there were multiple layers and fronts involved in this fairly wide-ranging attack.

1) Email and confidential files from the DNC, DCCC, RNC, the Clinton Foundation and Clinton campaign Chairman John Podesta were hacked and stolen.

2) That data obtained was then laundered through Guccifer 2.0 to DCLeaks and Wikileaks and released with specific timing to create rumors and innuendos that would do the most damage to the Clinton campaign, exacerbating rifts with the Sanders and Stein campaigns and provide the greatest amount of cover and support for Donald Trump’s campaign.

3) Cyber bots imitating U.S. citizens on Facebook and Twitter were used to push these stories which originated on Kremlin sponsored RT and Sputnik News as well as various false stories about Clinton — like her alleged “Health Problems”, involvement with a Pizza Parlor Prostitution Ring, supposedly granting favors to groups and individuals who gave money to her husband Bill’s Charity Foundation, including giving Russia 20% of our Uranium reserves —  until they trended and gained widespread acceptance.

4) Russian cyberwarriors attacked voter registration systems for 36 states around the nation and attempt to access and change registration information, in select countries which tend to be democratic they succeed in implementing a breach potentially causing a depression in the Democratic vote in those districts.

With an election that was decided by a difference of just 70,000 votes across three states, the likelihood that this attack actually made a critical difference in the election has grown exponentially.

Stealing information from DNC and creating bad PR for Clinton is one thing.  Making up fake stories and pushing them out on social media is another and neither of those should have been sufficient in changing the outcome of the election.  But changing or impacting the registration information, removing registrations for valid voters causing them to have to go through the provisions ballot process — which sometimes aren’t counted unless there is less than 1% difference — would massively slowdown things at a precinct, making lines much longer and potentially forcing voters who don’t have enough time to wait to give up on casting their vote.  This is how the results of an election can be changed without changing votes, but instead by making if demonstrably harder for people you don’t like to be able to case their vote.

They may be the worse of it as reported by Bloomberg.

The White House provided evidence gathered on Russia’s hacking efforts and reasons why the U.S. considered it dangerously aggressive. Russia responded by asking for more information and providing assurances that it would look into the matter even as the hacking continued, according to the two people familiar with the response.

“Last year, as we detected intrusions into websites managed by election officials around the country, the administration worked relentlessly to protect our election infrastructure,” said Eric Schultz, a spokesman for former President Barack Obama. “Given that our election systems are so decentralized, that effort meant working with Democratic and Republican election administrators from all across the country to bolster their cyber defenses.”

In early July 2016, a contractor who works two or three days a week at the state board of elections detected unauthorized data leaving the network, according to Ken Menzel, general counsel for the Illinois board of elections. The hackers had gained access to the state’s voter database, which contained information such as names, dates of birth, genders, driver’s licenses and partial Social Security numbers on 15 million people, half of whom were active voters. As many as 90,000 records were ultimately compromised.

Clinton ultimately won Illinois by 860,000 votes but another of the first states identified in this type of attack was Arizona where the attack was supposedly unsuccessful.

In Arizona, officials said, hackers tried to get in using malicious software but were unsuccessful. The state took its online voter registration down for nine days, beginning in late June, after malware was discovered on a county election official’s computer. But the state concluded that the system was not successfully breached.

But what makes more sense than going after Illinois where Clinton had a huge lead, or even Arizona where Trump ultimately won by over 90,000 votes is to go after very specifically blue areas in a larger red state, like Dallas County in Texas.

DALLAS (AP) — A top Texas elections official says Russian hackers attempted to access voter registration rolls in Dallas County before November’s presidential election.

County elections administrator Toni Pippins-Poole says the U.S. Department of Homeland Security in October alerted elections offices about some 600 IP addresses linked to Russian hackers.

She told The Dallas Morning News that Dallas County scanned county servers for those IP addresses — numeric designations that identify a location on the internet — and found 17 matches for hackers who tried to gain access.

Federal authorities have confirmed some of those attempts came from Russian IP addresses.

The initial reports that these were only “scans” and no data was changed or compromised, but in this report by Rachel Maddow it turns out that that is not exactly the case. [Relevant portions starts at 9:30]

This is how the Dallas morning news covered this issue, even though they note that their system itself wasn’t breached.

“They didn’t infiltrate our system,” said Toni Pippins-Poole, the county’s elections administrator. “They couldn’t get in.”

If the hackers had been able to manipulate or delete the county’s registered voter database — which contains names, dates of birth and addresses for 1.3 million voters — that could have caused chaos on Election Day, said Dallas County Commissioner John Wiley Price.

“The fact that there were that many attempts says they expected to disrupt,” Price said. “If you disrupt the voter file, then when people are trying to validate at the polls, you got mass confusion.”

All these reports lead a similar direction, that Russians — as confirmed by their IP addresses — were attempting to breach on these systems, with the specific intent of disruption the election and by nature of their targeting Dallas counties, but according to the same list of 600 suspect IP address, not the neighboring predominantly red counties — this was intended to push the election in a specific direction.

Rachel also points out how a Poll Book system made by Florida company that had been attacked by the Russians in 2016.

A few weeks before the November 2016 election, all 67 county elections supervisors in Florida got a call from the FBI with a warning: Hackers were trying to break into their voting systems. The FBI insisted no one had been hacked yet, but told supervisors they needed to be wary.

They might not have been careful enough. The Intercept posted leaked NSA documents online last night that suggest Russian hackers did, in fact, break into the Tallahassee company that provides voting technology to most Florida counties, including Miami and Broward. And those same hackers used that connection to send phishing emails to more than 100 local officials just days before the vote, the docs show.

That system is used to check voters in at the polls, mysteriously failed in Durham County, North Carolina.  Which happens to holds that state’s most reliable democratic voters.  The verification was ultimately done by hand, but this considerably slowed the process.  Voting in the country was extended due to the software glitch, but for only 20 minutes instead of the 90 minutes that was requested.

The N.C. Board of Elections Tuesday night extended voting in eight Durham County precincts for 20 to 60 minutes – short of the time requested by the local board – after software glitches interrupted voting there earlier in the day.

Two of the eight were allowed to stay open an hour longer than planned, but Durham County’s board had unanimously asked the state for permission to extend voting by 90 minutes in all eight precincts. In one precinct, voting had stopped for two hours; in others, down-time ranged from 20 to 45 minutes, elections officials reported.

On top of all this there was a contractor for the RNC who posted and left open to anyone with the web  address without a password the details demographic and voter information for 198 Million Americans.
Political data gathered on more than 198 million US citizens was exposed this month after a marketing firm contracted by the Republican National Committee stored internal documents on a publicly accessible Amazon server.

The data leak contains a wealth of personal information on roughly 61 percent of the US population. Along with home addresses, birthdates, and phone numbers, the records include advanced sentiment analyses used by political groups to predict where individual voters fall on hot-button issues such as gun ownership, stem cell research, and the right to abortion, as well as suspected religious affiliation and ethnicity. The data was amassed from a variety of sources—from the banned subreddit r/fatpeoplehate to American Crossroads, the super PAC co-founded by former White House strategist Karl Rove.

So that wasn’t awesome. Allegedly this was accidental. Allegedly there is little evidence that this trove of information was found by Russians and used in their efforts for the voter micro-targeting or registration sabotage.  But it’s concerning.

There is as yet no report that attacks similar to Dallas or Durham county occurred in any of the three key “blue firewall states” — Michigan, Pennsylvania and Wisconsin — that collapsed and gave Trump the Presidency, yet, we still had problems like this in Michigan where something went severely wrong with the tallying machines.

Was it merely old equipment which incompetent officials had failed to bother getting serviced, or was there something intentionally sinister going on? That’s the question now coming out of Michigan, where just as the statewide recount is getting underway, officials are finally admitting that the majority of vote counting machines in Detroit broke on election day. The stunning admission, which is getting virtually no national news coverage despite appearing in a major Detroit newspaper, casts doubt on the legitimacy of Donald Trump’s supposed narrow win in the state.

Even now, elections director Daniel Baxter appears to only be making the admission as part of a convoluted argument for why the ballots in those Detroit precincts can’t be recounted. He’s acknowledging  that seventy-eight optical scanners in Detroit simply “broke” on the same day. But he and other Michigan officials are now making the argument that, because the broken machines resulted in different vote totals on the machines than on the precinct log books, state law means those ballots can’t be recounted.

The paradoxical argument, which is on full display in the Detroit News today, seems unlikely to pass the scrutiny of the federal judge who ruled on Sunday night that every county and precinct must immediately recount its votes by hand. But third party candidate Jill Stein, who initiated the recount and is paying for it, would need to take the matter back to the judge.

Meanwhile, the mere fact that fifty-nine percent of the vote counting machines in Michigan’s biggest city all broke on the same day is standing out as a stunning development. It calls into question why officials failed to publicly disclose this information until they needed it for their convoluted argument against recounting the majority of Detroit’s votes. With Detroit being 82% African-American and thus demographically likely to have heavily favored Hillary Clinton, it directly calls into question whether Donald Trump won Michigan.

Possibly not related to Russian hacking as far as we know, but still also, concerning because Detroit happens to be one of the most heavily democratic areas in the state where ultimately Trump won by just 10,000 votes.

Then there was Wisconsin where Trump won by just 27,000 votes which now has voter ID laws which block approximately 300,000 people from the polls who could otherwise vote.

Randle is one of 300,000 registered voters in Wisconsin, 9 percent of the electorate, who do not have a government-issued photo ID and could be disenfranchised by the state’s new voter-ID law, which is in effect for the first time in 2016. Wisconsin, one of the country’s most important battleground states, is one of 16 states with new voting restrictions in place since 2012. The five-hour lines in Arizona were the most recent example of America’s election problems. Wisconsin could be next.

Randle’s account is hardly unique in Wisconsin. The lead plaintiff who challenged the voter-ID law, 89-year-old Ruthelle Frank, has been voting since 1948 and has served on the Village Board in her hometown of Brokaw since 1996, but cannot get a photo ID for voting because her maiden name is misspelled on her birth certificate, which would cost $200 to correct. “No one should have to pay a fee to be able to vote,” Frank said.

There is a clear racial disparity in terms of who is most impacted by the law. In 2012, African-American voters in Wisconsin were 1.7 times as likely as white voters to lack a driver’s license or state photo ID, and Latino voters were 2.6 times as likely as white voters to lack such ID. More than 60 percent of people who’ve requested a photo ID for voting from the DMV have been black or Hispanic, according to legal filings.

And considering that black and latino voters have far higher tendency of voting democratic, the impact of having up to 300,000 unable to vote could sway an election away from current democratic candidates when the final margin is only 27,000.

Whether the end result was a combination of restrictive Voter ID laws, strategic equipment failures or deliberate attempts by Russia to foul the waters and disrupting the registration rolls doesn’t really matter in the end.  All of these factors combined, including Clinton’s own weaknesses and overconfidence as a candidate, led to the result that we have.  Whether Russia changed things alone doesn’t matter as much as the fact they went on a pretty much full court press do change things at all.  They don’t get do that, they don’t get try to decide who are next President should be.   It’s not like if you go to rob a bank, but don’t come out with money you aren’t going to be charged for the robbery.  It’s like if you attempt to kill someone but fail, you’re not going to be in trouble for attempt.

We are now long past the point of arguing about IF they tried, they did, now we’ve reach a point — at least with Trump — where he’s trying to defect blame back on the Obama administration.  in classic Trump fashion he strategically mis-understands the facts in a way that benefits… only him.

Since the Obama Administration was told way before the 2016 Election that the Russians were meddling, why no action? Focus on them, not T!

Obama Administration official said they “choked” when it came to acting on Russian meddling of election. They didn’t want to hurt Hillary?

In reality when President Obama discovered the breath and intensity of the Russian attack on our elections in August of 2016 he took several unprecedented steps.
in September Obama assembled Congress’s “Gang of 12” and informed them of the Russia hack confidentially and asks for a bipartisan public statement in opposition to the attack, but Mitch McConnell refused as he doubts the veracity of the information, so no bipartisan public statement was issued due to Republican obstruction.  Obama’s concern at the time was that without a bipartisan statement the report would have appeared to be an attempt to tip the scales and HELP Clinton too much — not from fear of hurting her as Trump wrongly surmises. Despite the lack of support from Republicans Sen Feinstein and Rep Schiff issued a joint statement revealing the Russia cyber attack.
This is what Feinstein was publicly saying by December.

In October Obama met with Putin face to face in China personally told him to “Cut it out” with the hacking​​.  CIA Director Brennan made a similar warning call to his counterpart, the head of FSB Alexander Bortinov.  There is an argument to be made that these efforts worked, in that most of the hacking efforts had already ceased or soon ended at that time.  The Russian Think Tank that had laid out the blue print for how to use bots & troll to push anti-Clinton propaganda issued a new report that month which instead focused more on damaging Clinton with the expectation that Trump would lose.  In late October Obama’s White House used the “Red Phone” developed for emergency communications with Russia during a potential Nuclear Conflict, to yet again warn Russia to back off.
But it seems most of the damage was already done, or already in place with continuing release o,f previously hacked materials through RT and Sputnik News.
Trump argues “why didn’t Obama stop it?”- well as shown above he actually did by getting in Putin’s face about it did seem to make a difference — but it’s not like there’s a bit “off switch” to the internet. 9000 sets of systems in 9000 counties are what run our elections from registration to tabulation. The tabulation systems are generally kept offline from the internet and thought to be invulnerable — although that is wrongful assumption — and defensive changes to those systems would have to be made manually by each of their systems administrators.  It’s not like the White House has a master switch to all this — however perhaps establishing a firewall that blocks the 600 IP addresses that have been confirmed as being linked to Russian hackers might be a good start, or simply blocking anything coming from St. Petersburg from any U.S. voting gear would be a big help.  This would have to be done system by system, not with the snap of some fingers and probably couldn’t have been done by election day at any rate.
Most of the options on Obama’s table were not defensive, but offensive.  The Obama administration was hesitant to perform a massive cyber counter-attack on Russia before the election as they were concerned that that would escalate matters and the election may have be compromised even more than it already had been.  After the election they revisited these options in additional to further sanctions, expulsion of 35 intelligence agents and the confiscation of two compounds the Russians were using to direct operations they ultimately planted a set of cyber bombs inside the Russian infrastructure when could be detonated if Russia attempted anything like this in the future.
The decision to set off that bombs rests in the hands of the Trump administration,  who so far haven’t failed to seriously acknowledge what Russia actually did, or that it might happen again. In fact Trump has actually signaled he plan to give the two compounds confiscated by Obama back to the Russians.
So if Obama did “nothing” apparently Trump has done less than nothing.
We do now know that Putin launched and directed this multi-pronged attack on our Democracy and that is was at least partially successful.  The final outcome may have been in our own hands, but in many ways that outcome was bungled.  Those facts do not remove any responsibility from the Russians for what they attempted here, on in France, or in England, or for what they may attempt to do next.

We know what Russia did, we don’t yet know exactly how much Trump and his people fully understood what was happening during this time, whether they were merely tacit beneficiaries of the Russian efforts or whether during their 18 clandestine meetings and contacts they helped provide Russians with data to helped them micro-target voter via the  Brian Pascale/Cambridge Analytica project or made a deal to implement policies that would benefit Russia — such as removing the sanctions over Crimea and the Ukraine, something the Trumpsters have already attempted three separate times without any valid justification — in exchange for their help during the election.,

That’s not fully known, but we’re going to find out.  One way or another.

 

Reprinted with permission from Daily Kos