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Russian hackingHackers “poking around” U.S. voter registration sites in more than a dozen states: Comey

Published 29 September 2016

James Comey, the FBI director, said his agency has discovered more attempts to hack voter registration sites in more than a dozen states according to two law enforcement officials. The FBI, and investigators working for other law enforcement agencies, say indications are the hackers belong to two cyber units working for the Russian government.

James Comey, the FBU director, said his agency has discovered more attempts to hack voter registration sites in more than a dozen states according to two law enforcement officials. The FBI, and investigators working for other law enforcement agencies, say indications are the hackers belong to two cyber units working for the Russian government.

On Wednesday, Comey, testifying before the House Judiciary Committee, said that “There have been a variety of scanning activities which is a preamble for potential intrusion activities as well as some attempted intrusions at voter database registrations beyond those we knew about in July and August. We are urging the states just to make sure that their deadbolts are thrown and their locks are on and to get the best information they can from DHS just to make sure their systems are secure.”

Comey urged states to make sure to secure their voter registration systems, telling lawmakers that would-be hackers are “poking around.”

CNN reports that Comey told the lawmakers that there have not been any additional successful hacks, but that there have been scans and attempts that indicate “bad actors” are trying to see where they can get in.

In June, the Russian hackers were successful in hacking voter registration databases in Illinois and Arizona.

The information in the databases was not changed – and, in any event, as Comey stressed, the actual voting systems are not connected to the Internet and are decentralized, making broad hacking of actual voting nearly impossible.

Cyber experts note that voting registration base had been hacked in the past, but usually by cyber criminals who were looking for the personal information of voters to be used in financial crime. This time, however, the hacks show a pattern of Russian government-linked hackers trying to undermine the campaign of Hillary Clinton in an effort to make it more likely that Donald Trump would win the elections. Even if the hacks fail to prevent Clinton from reaching the White House, they could undermine her authority by sowing distrust in the integrity of the U.S. election system, feeding conspiracy theories – promoted by Trump himself – that the system is “rigged.”

Without commenting on Russia’s specific hacking activity, Comey said the takeaway is for states to make sure they are secure.

We are urging the states just to make sure that their deadbolts are thrown and their locks are on and to get the best information they can from (the Department of Homeland Security) just to make sure their systems are secure,” Comey said. “Because there’s no doubt that some bad actors have been poking around.”

Homeland Security Secretary Jeh Johnson said on Tuesday that eighteen states have requested elections-related cyberassistance from DHS.