Beware of the Watchdog that does not bark any details

NYTimes story that justifies our skepticism on NC ePollbook story:  In Election Interference, Its What Reporters Didn’t Find That Matters <read>

I had been on the cyber beat for six years and had grown accustomed to deep, often lengthy digital forensics analyses of cyber attacks against a wide range of targets: Silicon Valley start-ups, multinational conglomerates, government agencies and our own Times breach by Chinese government hackers. In the vast majority of cases, it takes investigators months or years to discover that hackers had indeed been lurking undetected on victims’ machines…

Yet American intelligence officials were adamant in a report in January—just two months after Election Day—that vote tallies had not been hacked. This despite the broad consensus among United States intelligence agencies that Russia interfered in the 2016 election through an extensive disinformation and propaganda campaign, as well as the hacking of electoral databases and websites, the Democratic National Committee and the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee.

My colleagues Michael Wines, Matthew Rosenberg and I set out to find out how government officials had nixed the possibility of vote hacking so readily. It was especially unclear to us given that officials at the Department of Homeland Security testified last fall that Russian hackers probed election systems in 21 states, with varying degrees of success, and that months later, a National Security Agency report found that Russian hackers had indeed successfully infiltrated VR Systems, an election service provider in eight states, including he battlegrounds North Carolina, Florida and Virginia.

As we dug more into our investigation, the more unresolved incidents we found.

Among other things, we learned that intelligence agencies had intentionally worded their conclusions to specifically address “vote tallying,” not the back-end election systems—conclusions that were not even based on any in-depth investigation of the state election systems or the machines themselves, but on the accounts of American spies and digital intercepts of Russian communications, as well as on assessments by the Department of Homeland Security—which were largely superficial and not based on any in-depth investigation of the state election systems or machines themselves.

In fact, we discovered that precious little research had been conducted, the result of legal limits on the authority of intelligence agencies to address domestic issues and states’ historic reluctance to permit federal oversight of elections.

This is associated with another story in the NYTimes: Russian Election Hacking Efforts, Wider Than Previously Known, Draw Little Scrutiny<read>

 

In Durham, a local firm with limited digital forensics or software engineering expertise produced a confidential report, much of it involving interviews with poll workers, on the county’s election problems. The report was obtained by The Times, and election technology specialists who reviewed it at the Times’ request said the firm had not conducted any malware analysis or checked to see if any of the e-poll book software was altered, adding that the report produced more questions than answers.

Neither VR Systems — which operates in seven states beyond North Carolina — nor local officials were warned before Election Day that Russian hackers could have compromised their software. After problems arose, Durham County rebuffed help from the Department of Homeland Security and Free & Fair, a team of digital election-forensics experts who volunteered to conduct a free autopsy. The same was true elsewhere across the country.

As we said in our earlier post: See No Evil, Find No Monkey Business, ePollbook Edition <read>

the simple case is that we now have no reason to trust the claim that it was all a simple software error, that the Federal and State Governments were actually protecting us.

We will post this under Skullduggery and Errors, since obfuscating and distorting the facts is deliberate skullduggery.

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