Before approaching the ultimate question of possible collaboration (in fact or just in reckless aspiration) between the Presidential campaign of Donald Trump and Russians close to or directed by President Vladimir Putin, Special Prosecutor Robert Mueller has been sketching in the background, the broadscale Russian campaign to covertly influence the American Election of 2016.
His first big bag of indictments, 13 Russian citizens clustered around a notorious troll farm in St Petersburg owned by a longtime Putin crony, allowed him to show how American social media had been polluted by truly “fake news,” most of it aimed at discrediting Hillary Clinton and helping Donald Trump.
His most recent dragnet-sized haul, 12 more Russians alleged to be hackers from GRU, Russian Military Intelligence, produced a detailed timeline of Russian intrusions online into accounts of more than half a dozen Clinton-connected political pros, including her Campaign Chair John Podesta and the migration of thousands of emails from the Russian spies to Wikileaks to the world. These “leaks” – thefts might be a better word — seriously damaged the Clinton campaign, if only by keeping her computer security issues alive in the news cycle.
So, if Russia waged such an aggressive digital war against America’s 2016 Presidential election, did they also attack the vote itself? Did the Russians penetrate either America’s voting system or its vote-counting system?
The official story – not effectively contradicted to date – is that the answer on both counts is no, no malfunctioning voting machines, no miscounts of votes. Although, there is some evidence that someone did penetrate the Illinois voting system, but we’re told, to no evident effect.
But that was then, and this is now, and over 2 years, digital technology continues to evolve. So, is the 2018 vote secure, and if not why not, and how can it be fixed so we know the upcoming elections are valid?
Kim Zetter has covered cybersecurity for more than a decade. She is the author of ‘‘Countdown to Zero Day: Stuxnet and the Launch of the World’s First Digital Weapon.’’ Her reporting has been featured in the New York Times, Wired and Vice News’ Motherboard.