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Russian hackers infiltrated state and local government networks, officials say

Hackers stole information about how governments secure their systems and which vendors they buy products from, according to the FBI and the Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency.

Hackers targeted state and local government computer networks, the FBI and CISA said Thursday.
Angela Lang/CNET

This story is part of Elections 2020, CNET's coverage of the voting in November and its aftermath.

Russian state-sponsored hackers have targeted computer networks at dozens of state and local governments, and successfully infiltrated some of them, intelligence experts at the FBI and the Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency said in a joint statement Thursday. The hackers also took data from at least two servers, the agencies said.

According to the announcement, hackers with the group sometimes called Energetic Bear and associated with the Russian government have logged in to government administrator accounts and then moved around in sensitive systems. The stolen data included additional passwords and information about how each government uses security features like two-factor authentication and password reset requests. It also included information on how to print access badges and which vendors the governments partner with.

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The data included information that could help hackers disrupt elections, the agencies said in the announcement, but they added that "The FBI and CISA have no evidence to date that integrity of elections data has been compromised."

The announcement comes one day after Director of National Intelligence John Ratcliffe and FBI Director Christopher Wray said at a press conference that Russia and Iran had attempted to interfere with the US presidential election. Ratcliffe said Iranian actors sent fraudulent emails threatening voters and telling them they must vote for President Donald Trump in the coming election. The emails wouldn't have required a compromise of election systems, and voter email addresses can be found in public sources.

Intelligence officials consider the threat from Russia more sophisticated and serious, according to a report Thursday from The New York Times, which cited anonymous sources.