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Russian Hackers Had Bigger Impact on U.S. Election Than Previously Thought

The 2016 U.S. presidential election was nothing if not controversial. With the legitimacy of both candidates thrown into question, some believe there was no way that the average voter could come out on top. Couple this with the influence of Russian hackers, who are now thought to have played an ever bigger role than we originally thought, and it’s easy to understand why there is so much anger, frustration and animosity within U.S. politics today.

Michael Bahar, former member of the House Intelligence Committee, described the situation quite bluntly in a recent interview with TIME. He is quoted as saying: “The integrity of the entire system is in question. So you need the system to push back and find out what happened and why, so it never happens again.”

Hints of a Much Bigger Problem

Despite the fact that President Trump hasn’t accepted Russia’s interference in the election, a recent report by Bloomberg outlines all of the undeniable evidence. Their report even expands on the idea by suggesting that Russia’s role was much bigger, and much more damaging, than we initially thought.

Initial reports had limited the attacks to state-specific voting systems in mid- to late 2016. A total of 39 states were affected when Russian hackers gained unauthorized access to polling systems and attempted to delete or, in some cases, alter voting data.

Vladimir Putin has stated that the Russian government was not behind the attacks. However, he didn’t rule out the idea that independent hackers, operating out of Russia, could have been responsible.

U.S. officials are quick to point out that these cyberattacks don’t necessarily have to delete data in order to be effective. Simply slowing down the tallying process or creating doubt amongst voters could be enough to affect the outcome.

James Comey, former FBI director, made his stance very clear by stating: “They’re coming for America,” They will be back.”

Moving Forward

Individual states responded to the attacks in different ways. Some worked side-by-side with the Homeland Security Department to ensure the future integrity and security of their IT infrastructure. Others enlisted the help of private security firms.

The U.S. Senate has responded by approving new sanctions against Russia for the attacks. While the sanctions are a part of another bill – and subject to House vote and presidential veto – the U.S. senate voted 97-2 in favor of new penalties.

Senator John McCain said: “For too long, the message to Vladimir Putin has been that Russia can invade its neighbors, threaten US allies, intensify its cyberattacks, and interfere with foreign elections with very little repercussion. Unless and until Russia pays a price for its actions, these destabilizing activities will continue.”

Future Implications

The future implications of any new sanctions are anybody’s guess. As skeptics are quick to point out, the U.S. has maintained numerous sanctions on Russia for quite some time; and this wasn’t enough to stop their recent efforts. While we might not be able to prevent future attacks entirely, we can certainly ramp up our efforts when it comes to identifying potential threats and minimizing their reach.

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