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Tuesday, 06 June 2017 07:03

NSA report claims Russian role in US elections Featured

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A top-secret NSA report claims that Russian military intelligence carried out a cyber attack on a US voting software supplier and sent phishing emails to 100 local election officials shortly before the US presidential elections in 2016.

The Intercept said that it had obtained the report, dated 5 May, through an independent, anonymous source and said it was the most detailed claim of Russian interference by any US government body.

But the five-page report does not provide the underlying data on which it is based. Additionally, an anonymous US intelligence officer cautioned against leaping to conclusions because a single analysis could not be definitive.

The Intercept made some redactions in the document it published after speaking to the NSA and the Office of the Director of National Intelligence.

The report begins by stating: "Russian General Staff Main Intelligence Directorate actors … executed cyber espionage operations against a named U.S. company in August 2016, evidently to obtain information on elections-related software and hardware solutions. … The actors likely used data obtained from that operation to … launch a voter registration-themed spear-phishing campaign targeting U.S. local government organisations."

The report contains much more detail than the unclassified report that former president Barack Obama released in January in which it was claimed that Russia meddled in the US election process.

In the report, the NSA concluded that a Russian team which was focused on US and foreign elections took aim at an unnamed private company that makes devices which maintain and verify voter rosters.

While the company was not directly identified, there are numerous references in the report to the Florida-based VR Systems which sells electronic voting services and equipment used in eight US states.

The Russians are claimed to have used phishing tactics by including Visual Basic scripts in Microsoft Word documents sent to election offices, and thus gained entry to voting systems.

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Sam Varghese

Sam Varghese has been writing for iTWire since 2006, a year after the site came into existence. For nearly a decade thereafter, he wrote mostly about free and open source software, based on his own use of this genre of software. Since May 2016, he has been writing across many areas of technology. He has been a journalist for nearly 40 years in India (Indian Express and Deccan Herald), the UAE (Khaleej Times) and Australia (Daily Commercial News (now defunct) and The Age). His personal blog is titled Irregular Expression.

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