Business Insider reports: It was September 2015 when the FBI first noticed that Russian hackers had infiltrated a computer system belonging to the Democratic National Committee.
It was the first sign that Moscow was attempting to meddle in the presidential election.
Nearly a year later, further reporting and testimony from current and former intelligence officials have painted a portrait of Russia’s election interference as a multifaceted, well-planned, and coordinated campaign aimed at undermining the backbone of American democracy: free and fair elections.
Now, as FBI special counsel Robert Mueller and congressional intelligence committees continue to investigate Russia’s election interference, evidence is emerging that the hacking and disinformation campaign waged at the direction of Russian President Vladimir Putin took at least four separate but related paths.
The first involved establishing personal contact with Americans perceived as sympathetic to Moscow — such as former Defense Intelligence Agency chief Michael Flynn, former Trump campaign chairman Paul Manafort, and early Trump foreign-policy adviser Carter Page — and using them as a means to further Russia’s foreign-policy goals.
The second involved hacking the Democratic National Committee email servers and then giving the material to WikiLeaks, which leaked the emails in batches throughout the second half of 2016.
The third was to amplify the propaganda value of the leaked emails with a disinformation campaign waged predominantly on Facebook and Twitter, in an effort to use automated bots to spread fake news and pro-Trump agitprop.
And the fourth was to breach US voting systems in as many as 39 states leading up to the election, in an effort to steal registration data that officials say could be used to target and manipulate voters in future elections. [Continue reading…]