Could Russia Make Donald Trump Win The Election? There Are A Few Factors At Play
Tuesday at a Senate Armed Services Committee, John McCain asked the head of the NSA a very scary question. Could Russia "somehow harm the electoral process" and "disrupt the voting results in the upcoming election"? The reason he asks is that there have already been several instances of state voting databases being hacked, including in his home state of Arizona. No one has officially pointed a finger of blame yet, but many reports are signaling Russian hackers. So could Russia make Trump win the election? According to NSA chief Admiral Mike Rogers, it would be very difficult yet remains a concern.
Rogers did not specifically address whether Russia would help Trump win — just if they could manipulate the voting process. Here's why he said it would be tough, so many states with different systems:
The structure is so disparate, with some elements being still very manually focused, others being very electronically and interconnected. Because it's not just one nationwide single, integrated structure, that tends to help us ... defensively.
CBS News interviewed more than six cyber security experts to come up with their own conclusion. The picture they painted is a lot more bleak. If the vote is close, they wouldn't need to change the outcomes in the whole country, just a few hundred votes in one county could be enough. Dmitri Alperovitch, the founder of a group that's investigating the DNC hacks called CrowdStrike, said "we can’t discount the possibility" that hackers could therefore change the outcome.
Also since there are so many systems, it's hard to come up with one defense plan. There are two primary ways that hackers could affect the vote, CBS News reported. One is that they could hack into paperless voting machines, but the experts said that is particularly difficult. Daniel Castro, vice president at the Information Technology and Innovation Foundation, told CBS that it would be difficult:
You could, in theory, hack into that software and change it so that it would tally something differently. But again, those types of things are really hard to do just in terms of actually doing it, and doing it in an undetected way is much, much more difficult.
The other way would be to delete voter registration files from state databases. Computerworld.com reported that the hackers into the Arizona or Illinois databases could have modified or deleted records earlier this year, even though they weren't. The information in the records is public, not exactly something you need to hack to get. "The more concerning part is the potential to possibly modify someone’s voter records or delete them," Brian Calkin, vice president of operations for the Center of Internet Security, told Computerworld.com. If even 5 percent of Democrats' registrations were deleted, it could easily swing a race in a close state.
Trump, of course, has downplayed any concerns about Russia. He told Larry King on the Russia-funded TV channel RT that any chances of hackers from the country affecting the race are unlikely. "I hope that if they are doing something, I hope that somebody's going to be able to find out, so they can end it, because that would not be appropriate at all," Trump told King.
Interestingly RT.com — connected to the same Russian news source — ran a story about USAID giving $3 million to Russian NGOs before the Russian State Duma elections. They quote a political expert that claims the U.S. is trying to undermine the elections there. This may not be the last we've heard about Russia and the 2016 presidential election.