US intelligence agencies deny 2020 election was 'hacked'

A chain and US flag padlock on a computer keyboard

Foreign government-affiliated hackers tried but ultimately failed to change the outcome of the 2020 presidential election, a US intelligence report has confirmed.

The report, compiled by the Department of Justice, including the FBI, Department of Homeland Security and CISA, said that there was “no evidence that any foreign government-affiliated actor prevented voting, changed votes, or disrupted the ability to tally votes or to transmit election results in a timely manner".

According to the findings, Russian and Iranian campaigns targeting multiple critical infrastructure sectors and did successfully compromise the security of several networks that managed some election functions. However, they “did not materially affect the integrity of voter data, the ability to vote, the tabulation of votes, or the timely transmission of election results”.

The report also said that Iranian claims that sought to undermine the public’s confidence in US election infrastructure were “false or inflated”.

The various government departments identified several incidents of Russian, Chinese, and Iranian government-affiliated actors materially impacting the security of networks of political parties or candidates during the election.

However, it said in most cases, “it is unclear if those actors sought these accesses to inform broader foreign policy interests or election-specific operations.”

“Several such actors gathered at least some information they could have released in influence operations, but ultimately we did not see any such materials deployed, modified, or destroyed,” the report said.

Earlier this week, the Office of the Director of National Intelligence released a declassified report on potential election interference by foreign actors last year.

The report said that “President Putin and the Russian state authorized and conducted operations against the 2020 US presidential election aimed at denigrating president Biden and the Democratic Party, supporting president Trump, undermining public confidence in the electoral process, and exacerbating socio-political divisions in the US.”

“Unlike in 2016, we did not see persistent Russian cyber efforts to gain access to election infrastructure,” the report added.

However, the report did find that the Russian military intelligence (GRU) conducted a phishing campaign in late-2019 against subsidiaries of Burisma, the Ukrainian gas company where Joe Biden's son Hunter served on the board, to gather information on Biden’s family.

Rene Millman

Rene Millman is a freelance writer and broadcaster who covers cybersecurity, AI, IoT, and the cloud. He also works as a contributing analyst at GigaOm and has previously worked as an analyst for Gartner covering the infrastructure market. He has made numerous television appearances to give his views and expertise on technology trends and companies that affect and shape our lives. You can follow Rene Millman on Twitter.