In June an NSA document, leaked to press, showed voter registration software management company VR Systems had been hacked by Russian state actors. At the time, eight states scrambled to figure out if their systems were compromised, with the NSA remaining uncertain about the results of the attacks. It was at least successful enough for the hackers to launch a second-stage spearphishing campaign posing as VR Systems and "targeting U.S. local government organizations." [...]
"One of the mysteries about the 2016 presidential election is why Russian intelligence, after gaining access to state and local systems, didn't try to disrupt the vote," Bloomberg wrote. [...]
But with new information about Russia's Facebook ad buys, we should consider that Russian actors hacked American state systems not to change votes or harm voter trust, but to glean voter information that could specifically target actual, active voters with pro-Trump and anti-Clinton Facebook ads. [...]
Those ads and their targeting was crucial. This was an election where the loser actually "won" by 2.9 million votes. Getting a fraction of those ten million voters on Facebook to vote for Trump in specific, targeted states was absolutely critical for Trump's victory. And that's exactly what happened: Trump won by ten thousand votes in Michigan, and twenty thousand in Wisconsin. [...]
It's clear the pro-Trump Russia-backed ad buys helped tip the election. What's less clear is what Russia-backed hackers were doing in US state voting systems if they weren't changing votes or removing voters. But if we have to speculate, my money's on grabbing data to use in laser-targeted, inflammatory Facebook ad buys in key states.
We may never know for sure, but if we did find out that's what happened, I'm certain Facebook would remind us it's not their fault.
The more Facebook tells us, the worse it gets.