Mueller Probe: Russian Hackers Stole Half a Million Voters’ Information in 2016

by | July 16, 2018

By Matt Vasilogambros

Members of Russian military intelligence attempted to infiltrate local election administration systems during the 2016 U.S. presidential election, stealing the voter information of 500,000 Americans, according to indictments announced Friday by Rod Rosenstein, the U.S. deputy attorney general.

The revelation was part of the latest indictments of 12 Russian intelligence officers in an investigation led by Special Counsel Robert Mueller into foreign interference in the 2016 U.S. presidential election. Several Russian nationals, along with members of the Trump campaign, including former campaign chairman Paul Manafort, have been indicted as part of the investigation.

The indictment outlines how, investigators say, officers Anatoliy Sergeyevich Kovalev and Aleksandr Vladimirovich Osadchuk conspired with others to hack the computers of U.S. election administrators, including state boards of elections, secretaries of state and companies that developed voter registration software.

According to the indictment, the goal was clear: “to access those computers and steal voter data and other information stored on those computers.”

Local election officials across the country are attempting to shore up their security ahead of the November midterms. Many worry, however, that federal support might not be enough to fight off more hacking attempts.

The suspected hacking in 2016 seemed to generate success, federal investigators say. In July 2016, the accused intelligence officers stole the personal information of 500,000 voters, including their names, addresses, partial social security numbers, dates of birth and driver’s license numbers, according to the indictment.

Further, around November 2016, investigators say, the accused officers sent more than a hundred “spearphishing” emails, which are designed to trick victims into giving up login information, to officials in Florida who administer numerous county elections.

The head of every U.S. intelligence agency said in 2016 that Russia attempted to penetrate elections systems nationwide during the presidential election, and will try again during this year’s midterm elections.

Previously, however, U.S. officials said the only successful breach by Russian hackers was that of the personal information of 90,000 voters in Illinois. Russian hackers attempted to infiltrate the voter systems of 21 states, according to the Department of Homeland Security last September.

Stateline | Nonpartisan, Nonprofit News Service of the Pew Center on the States | editor@stateline.org  |  @pewstates