The Senate Intel Committee released a report Tuesday saying Russian-affiliated actors did in fact conduct “coordinated” attacks against the U.S. during the 2016 elections, and that despite “successfully” penetrating voter databases, there was no evidence any election results were manipulated.
In a preliminary summary of its investigation into Russian involvement during the 2016 election, the committee found that cyber actors, connected with the Russian government, targeted election systems of at least 18 states, and breached their infrastructures in some cases.
“Russian actors scanned databases for vulnerabilities, attempted intrusions, and in a small number of cases successfully penetrated a voter registration database,” the memo read. “This activity was part of a larger campaign to prepare to undermine confidence in the voting process.”
The investigation found that at least 18 states were targeted with the possibility of three other targets. There was evidence of other suspicious activity that that committee was unable to connect with those Russian actors.
Of the states involved, six were exposed to “malicious access attempts on voting-related websites.”
Perhaps the most alarming finding was evidence pointing to the hackers' access to “restricted elements of election infrastructure.” According to the committee, such access put these hackers in a position to “alter or delete voter registration data.”
Despite the breaches, there was no evidence to show that the actors changed any votes, proving that election results were accurate, lawmakers said.
“While our investigation remains ongoing, one conclusion is clear: the Russians were relentless in attempting to meddle in the 2016 election, and they will continue their efforts,” committee member Sen. Susan Collins, R-Maine, said.
The summary also noted that while evidence showed these actors were in a positon to manipulate state election infrastructure, it was unclear whether they decided against acting or if they were gathering information.
“The Committee does not know whether the Russian government-affiliated actors intended to exploit vulnerabilities during the 2016 elections and decided against taking action, or whether they were merely gathering information and testing capabilities for a future attack.”
The committee's vice chairman, Sen. Mark Warner, D-Va., shared his concerns as voters prepare for upcoming midterm elections.
“Elections at all levels are central to our democracy, to our institutions, and to our government's legitimacy, and I remain concerned that we as a country are still not fully prepared for the 2018 midterm elections.”
To ensure that the upcoming elections are more secure from cyberattacks, committee members also released a list of preliminary recommendations including improving information sharing on possible threats, increased cybersecurity, replacing outdated and venerable voting systems and assistance from the federal government in the form of grants.
The committee intends to release a more comprehensive report which will be submitted for declassification review and released to the public when approved.
Fox Business’ Adam Shapiro contributed to this report.