So it turns out that Russian hackers hit voter registration systems in all 50 states during the 2016 campaign and not just the 21 states previously disclosed. Surprise!
A joint intelligence bulletin (JIB) has been issued by the Department of Homeland Security and Federal Bureau of Investigation to state and local authorities regarding Russian hacking activities during the 2016 presidential election. While the bulletin contains no new technical information, it is the first official report to confirm that the Russian reconnaissance and hacking efforts in advance of the election went well beyond the 21 states confirmed in previous reports.
As reported by the intelligence newsletter OODA Loop, the JIB stated that, while the FBI and DHS "previously observed suspicious or malicious cyber activity against government networks in 21 states that we assessed was a Russian campaign seeking vulnerabilities and access to election infrastructure," new information obtained by the agencies "indicates that Russian government cyber actors engaged in research on—as well as direct visits to—election websites and networks in the majority of US states." While not providing specific details, the bulletin continued, "The FBI and DHS assess that Russian government cyber actors probably conducted research and reconnaissance against all US states’ election networks leading up to the 2016 Presidential elections."
DHS-FBI JIBs are unclassified documents, but they're usually marked "FOUO" (for official use only) and are shared through the DHS' state and major metropolitan Fusion Centers with state and local authorities. The details within the report are mostly well-known. "The information contained in this bulletin is consistent with what we have said publicly and what we have briefed to election officials on multiple occasions," a DHS spokesperson told Ars. "We assume the Russian government researched and in some cases targeted election infrastructure in all 50 states in an attempt to sow discord and influence the 2016 election."
In fact, DHS Assistant Secretary Jeanette Manfra told the Senate Homeland Security Committee in April of 2018 that Russia had likely at least performed reconnaissance on election infrastructure in all 50 states. The bulletin raises the confidence in that estimate, however, saying:
Russian cyber actors in the summer of 2016 conducted online research and reconnaissance to identify vulnerable databases, usernames, and passwords in webpages of a broader number of state and local websites than previously identified, bringing the number of states known to be researched by Russian actors to greater than 40. Despite gaps in our data where some states appear to be untouched by Russian activities, we have moderate confidence that Russian actors likely conducted at least reconnaissance against all US states based on the methodical nature of their research. This newly available information corroborates our previous assessment and enhances our understanding of the scale and scope of Russian operations to understand and exploit state and local election networks.
Please keep in mind the Trump regime has done everything possible to weaken US defenses against Russian hacking, including shutting down defense efforts at both the Pentagon and in the White House since taking office.
And if you don't think current Russian efforts to hack state voter registration rolls in order to help Trump purge Democrats aren't already underway right now, you've not been paying attention.
And speaking of Russian efforts to undermine the 2016 election, WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange finally got tossed from the Ecuadorian Embassy in London into the waiting arms of UK police and Justice Department espionage charges.
The dramatic expulsion follows a year of ratcheting tension between Assange and his Ecuadorian hosts, culminating in Wikileaks publicizing a leak of hundreds of thousands of hacked emails mysteriously stolen from the inboxes of Ecuador’s president and first lady. It was this last move that finally set Ecuador’s government firmly against Assange, who was by then already being treated less like a political refugee than an inmate—albeit one who was free to leave at any time.
“The patience of Ecuador has reached its limit on the behavior of Mr. Assange,” said Ecuador’s president Lenín Moreno on Thursday.
Assange, who has an outstanding warrant for jumping bail in 2012 to avoid extradition to Sweden, was taken into custody after officers were invited inside by embassy officials. It’s a relatively minor charge, but Assange’s imminent freedom is far from assured.
British police confirmed a few hours after the initial arrest that Assange was arrested for a second time on behalf of U.S. authorities on an extradition warrant. The U.K. government didn't reveal much, only saying Assange is “accused in the United States of America of computer related offences.”
CNN reported that the U.S. Justice Department will soon announce charges against Assange and the cause for the extradition request.
Federal prosecutors in Alexandria, Virginia, have been working to build a case against the Australian cypherpunk for nearly a decade, and a paperwork error last year revealed they have a sealed criminal complaint at the ready in anticipation of this moment.
That complaint was unsealed today as domestic political pressure on President Moreno from an exposed Chinese corruption deal (lot of those going around) made Assange an albatross around his neck, and weight was finally too much for him to bear. In fact, Moreno blames WikiLeaks for the documents that Moreno's opponents magically seemed to get their hands on.
Assange is facing conspiracy charges for working with convicted whistleblower Chelsea Manning. What Assange isn't facing is charges of publishing classified material. It seems Bill Barr isn't willing to go that far on carrying out Trump's media "enemies of the people" plan quite yet.
For now. Let's remember that WikiLeaks helped Trump and Roger Stone leak the Russian-provided hacked Podesta DNC memos in 2016. It's perfectly understandable that they want to toss Assange in a hole before he can bury Trump in one.