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The Russian connectionElection systems of 21 states targeted by Russian government hackers ahead of 2016 election: DHS

Published 25 September 2017

More revelations about the scope of the Russian government’s cyber-campaign on behalf of Donald Trump in the November 2016 presidential election came to light Friday afternoon, when DHS officials called election officials in twenty-one states to inform them that their states’ election systems had been targeted by Russian government hackers trying to influence the U.S. presidential election. Among the states whose election systems were targeted by Russian government operatives: Alabama, Arizona, Colorado, Connecticut, Illinois, Iowa, Maryland, Minnesota, Ohio, Oklahoma, Pennsylvania, Virginia, Washington, and Wisconsin.

More revelations about the scope of the Russian government’s cyber-interference on behalf of Donald Trump in the November 2016 presidential election came to light Friday afternoon, when DHS officials called election officials in twenty-one states to inform them that their states’ election systems had been targeted by Russian government hackers trying to influence the U.S. presidential election.

Endgadget reports that DHSinitially revealed the breaches at a congressional hearing in June, but the Department had not offered details about which states had been targeted. DHS has not disclosed – at least publicly — what the Russian hackers were trying to gain, but officials several states confirmed they were notified by DHS of the Russian hacking campaign. 

Wisconsin’s Elections Commission issued a statement saying members of the commission had been notified that “Russian government cyber actors” had to tried to target Wisconsin’s voter registration system, but that these attempts were unsuccessful.

“What this boils down to is that someone tried the door knob and it was locked,” said Reid Magney, a spokesman for the Wisconsin Elections Commission.

The Associated Press confirmed that Alabama, Arizona, Colorado, Connecticut, Illinois, Iowa, Maryland, Minnesota, Ohio, Oklahoma, Pennsylvania, Virginia, Washington, and Wisconsin were targeted by Russian government cyber-operatives.

Politicians in Washington State expressed their dismay with DHS, complaining that it had taken DHS too long to notify the states. Washington State officials called for stronger, more sophisticated election systems to thwart future cyberattacks.

Senator Mark Warner (D-Virginia), the vice chairman of the Senate Intelligence Committee, issued a statement calling it “unacceptable that it took almost a year after the election to notify states that their elections systems were targeted.”

Representative Adam Schiff (D-California), the ranking member of the House Intelligence Committee, tweeted that DHS should “notify states of attempted election hacking in real time, not a year later.”

DHS stood by its decision concerning the timing of releasing information to the states. “We heard feedback from the secretaries of state that this was an important piece of information,” Bob Kolasky, acting deputy undersecretary for DHS’s National Protection and Programs Directorate, told the Washington Post.. “We agreed that this information would help election officials make security decisions.”

He said it was important that the states shore up their systems now “rather than a few weeks before” the 2018 midterm elections.

Kolasky added that DHS will henceforth “have a bias to get information to [the states] as quickly as we can, and we are building protocols to notify them in a timely fashion.”

DHS told the states that it was up to them to decide whether to make public whether they had been targeted by the Russian government hackers, and what the hackers were able to gain.