(CNN) – Top members of Congress, briefed by U.S. intelligence and law enforcement, are issuing new warnings, concerned about Russian hackers potentially disrupting results of the U.S. presidential election.
The House Intelligence Committee chairman tells CBS News, the Russians have a motive, and the know-how.
Rep. Devin Nunes, (R) California, said, “They try to do it all over the globe. They just tried to do it in Ukraine. Would they try to do it here? Absolutely.”
U.S. intelligence and law enforcement officials tell CNN, they believe there is near-certainty that Russian intelligence is behind the recent hack of the Democratic National Committee’s computers – the theft of thousands of documents and e-mails – which led to embarrassing revelations, forcing the DNC chair to resign.
And there’s increasing confidence that recent cyber-attacks against election registration websites in Illinois, and Arizonam link back to Russian government hackers.
Russian president Vladimir Putin has denied all of it. “I don’t know anything about it, and on a state level Russia has never done this.”
But U.S. officials and experts say Putin’s hackers did disrupt Ukraine’s elections in 2014, destroying servers, installing viruses which could have changed results. But the attack failed.
Officials say the American voting system would be harder for the Russians to hack into and actually change voting results, because voting machines in the U.S. aren’t connected to the internet. And they’re not centralized; each state has a different voting system.
But Putin’s army of cyber-warriors, experts say, still have ways of disrupting the American vote.
Joe Hall from the Center for Democracy and Technology says, “The first would be to selectively remove 5-percent of Republicans or Democrats from the voter-registration rolls, which would mean people would show up and they would not be registered. They would have to cast provisional ballots. In some places that’s going to create quite a backlog in terms of lines and disruptions.”
Another hacking-method that concerns experts – if the Russians reveal bugs in the American voting system, showing how easy it would be for results to be falsified.
Analysts say disruption – raising doubts about the American system, not actually changing voting results – is what Vladimir Putin is after the most.
Matthew Rojansky from the Woodrow Wilson Center said, “And if that happens, then the elections themselves are called into question, and that seeds chaos in American politics, and most importantly for the Russians, it undermines the argument that American democracy is the model.”
But experts say Putin faces retaliation if Russian hackers are caught trying to interfere. Such retaliation include a cyber-attack on Russian servers, or an escalated U.S. and NATO military presence on Russia’s borders.
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