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The publication of the report of special advocate Robert Mueller could provide Americans with the best book of books on the defense of democracy in the run-up to the 2020 presidential election.
In the days following the Attorney General William Barr's letter to Congress, attention was focused on a line from President Trump: "No collusion, no obstruction."
But judging by the language of Barr and the details revealed by the indictments filed by Mueller's team over the last two years, the report could also say more about how Russia attacked the 2016 US presidential election.
According to Barr, the first section of the report focuses on Russian "hacking operations", which include the theft of e-mails from the Democratic National Committee and Hillary Clinton's campaign, as well as online turmoil to tempt to exacerbate the divisions between Americans.
Barr's summary does not address one aspect of the interference described by Mueller elsewhere, including cyberattacks targeting the state's electoral infrastructure infrastructure.
There was no public evidence to suggest that votes had been changed as a result of Russia's interventions, but an indictment filed last summer explained how Russian agents had Stole voter data on 500,000 voters, targeted state electoral boards and hacked a supplier of voting materials.
Michael Daniel, CEO of the Cyber Threat Alliance and former cyber-tsar of President Obama, now admits that he and his team "had no idea of the extent of the influence operations" from Russia before the elections.
Although he realized in the summer of 2016 that Russia was acting, Daniel said that he had "learned with everyone" about the extent of these efforts through the documents that the Mueller team has made public, as well as public testimonials from major social media companies.
He's not the only one.
Election managers have undergone worst-case exercises over the past two years, based on the multifaceted attack that Russia has launched. National and local IT teams have allocated resources to strengthen exploited vulnerabilities.
"You have to take what was done in 2016 and be ready for it again," Daniel said.
Barr said his office will review what Mueller has filed to remove confidential or confidential information and publish the rest, although the timing is not clear.
Security and election officials can then study the report to see if there is still much to learn about cyberactivity in Russia or other types of interference that the special advocate might have discovered.
According to experts, the good news is that elections in the United States are safer than four years ago for one reason: awareness.
Much of the Russian campaign was based on spear-phishing email, in which a hacker sent an email to a target to look like an official document in an attempt to access passwords. this target or other confidential information.
Now, people are better prepared for this. If election and campaign officials assume that they may be the target of such attacks, they are less likely to click on dangerous links.
There is also a clearer process of exchanging information with the federal government about potential cyber threats in a way that did not exist before.
Make the case
Larry Norden, deputy director of the Democracy Program at the Brennan Center for Justice, said he was curious to see the Mueller report in its entirety to find out if he was providing more details about the attack. of 2016.
It is also important to have a narrative document that officials can use when lobbying for more funding for elections, he said.
"When you hear about what has happened and individual stories, it may sound disappointing and difficult to understand," said Norden.
"Congress provided $ 380 million last year for electoral security, after not providing money for decades." And $ 380 million, it's a drop of money. water to the needs. "
The success of Russia's attack in 2016 will certainly encourage other nation-states or militant groups, said Daniel, adding that it was therefore all the more important that the United States reinforce their defenses.
"All this activity has opened the door to other types of actors who are following the same game book and are trying to do the same thing as the Russians," Daniel said.