Federal government notifies 21 states of election hacking

September 23, 2017 by Geoff Mulvihill And Jake Pearson
This Oct. 14, 2016 file photo shows Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton's and Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump's names printed on a ballot on a voting machine to be used in the upcoming election, in Philadelphia. The federal government on Friday, Sept. 22, 2017, told election officials in 21 states that hackers targeted their systems before last year's presidential election. The notification came roughly a year after U.S. Department of Homeland Security officials first said states were targeted by hacking efforts possibly connected to Russia. (AP Photo/Matt Rourke, File)

The federal government on Friday told election officials in 21 states that hackers targeted their systems before last year's presidential election.

The notification came roughly a year after U.S. Department of Homeland Security officials first said were targeted by hacking efforts possibly connected to Russia. The states that told The Associated Press they had been targeted included some key political battlegrounds, such as Florida, Ohio, Pennsylvania, Virginia and Wisconsin.

The AP contacted every state office to determine which ones had been informed that their had been targeted. The others confirming were Alabama, Alaska, Arizona, California, Colorado, Connecticut, Delaware, Illinois, Iowa, Maryland, Minnesota, North Dakota, Oklahoma, Oregon, Texas and Washington.

Being targeted does not mean that sensitive voter data was manipulated or results were changed. A hacker targeting a system without getting inside is similar to a burglar circling a house checking for unlocked doors and windows.

Even so, the widespread nature of the attempts and the yearlong lag time in notification from Homeland Security raised concerns among some and lawmakers.

For many states, the Friday calls were the first official confirmation of whether their states were on the list—even though state election officials across the country have been calling for months for the federal government to share information about any hacks, as have members of Congress.

"It is completely unacceptable that it has taken DHS over a year to inform our office of Russian scanning of our systems, despite our repeated requests for information," California Secretary of State Alex Padilla, a Democrat, said in a statement. "The practice of withholding critical information from elections officials is a detriment to the security of our elections and our democracy."

U.S. Sen. Mark Warner, of Virginia, the top Democrat on a committee that's investigating Russian meddling in last year's election, has been pushing the department for months to reveal the identities of the targeted states. He said states need such information in real time so they can strengthen their cyber defenses.

"We have to do better in the future," he said.

Homeland Security said it recognizes that state and local officials should be kept informed about cybersecurity risks to election infrastructure.

"We are working with them to refine our processes for sharing this information while protecting the integrity of investigations and the confidentiality of system owners," it said in a statement.

The government did not say who was behind the hacking attempts or provide details about what had been sought. But election officials in several states said the attempts were linked to Russia.

The Wisconsin Election Commission, for example, said the state's systems were targeted by "Russian government cyber actors." Alaska Elections Division Director Josie Bahnke said computers in Russia were scanning election systems looking for vulnerabilities.

A spokeswoman for Indiana Secretary of State Connie Lawson, the president of National Association of Secretaries of State, said Lawson requested a list of the states where there were hacking efforts. In most cases, states said they were told the systems were not breached.

Federal officials said that in most of the 21 states the targeting was preparatory activity such as scanning computer systems.

The targets included voter registration systems but not vote tallying software. Officials said there were some attempts to compromise networks but most were unsuccessful.

Only Illinois reported that hackers had succeeded in breaching its voter systems.

Other states said their cybersecurity efforts turned back efforts to get to crucial information.

"There are constant attempts by bad actors to hack our systems," Iowa Secretary of State Paul Pate, a Republican, said in a statement. "But we continue to deflect those attempts."

Colorado said the hacking wasn't quite a breach.

"It's really reconnaissance by a bad guy to try and figure out how we would break into your computer," said Trevor Timmons, a spokesman for the Colorado secretary of state's office. "It's not an attack. I wouldn't call it a probe. It's not a breach, it's not a penetration."

Earlier this year, a leaked National Security Agency report detailed that hackers obtained information from a company that provided software to manage voter registrations in eight states. The May report said hackers sent phishing emails to 122 local election officials just before the November 2016 election in an attempt to break into their systems.

The latest disclosure to the states comes as a special counsel investigates whether there was any coordination during the 2016 presidential campaign between Russia and associates of Donald Trump.

Trump, a Republican who defeated Democrat Hillary Clinton in the , has called the Russia story a hoax. He says Russian President Vladimir Putin "vehemently denied" the conclusions of numerous American intelligence agencies.

For states that were told they were not targets, the news brought relief.

"This is one time we like being at the bottom of the list," said Lisa Strimple, a spokeswoman for Nebraska's secretary of state.

Explore further: Some states review election systems for signs of intrusion

Related Stories

'Russian hackers' attack two US voter databases

August 30, 2016

Russian-based hackers may have been responsible for two recent attempts to breach US voter registration databases in two states, raising fears Moscow is trying to undermine November's presidential election, US media said ...

Recommended for you

Volumetric 3-D printing builds on need for speed

December 11, 2017

While additive manufacturing (AM), commonly known as 3-D printing, is enabling engineers and scientists to build parts in configurations and designs never before possible, the impact of the technology has been limited by ...

Tech titans ramp up tools to win over children

December 10, 2017

From smartphone messaging tailored for tikes to computers for classrooms, technology titans are weaving their way into childhoods to form lifelong bonds, raising hackles of advocacy groups.

9 comments

Adjust slider to filter visible comments by rank

Display comments: newest first

aksdad
1 / 5 (2) Sep 24, 2017
The government did not say who was behind the hacking attempts or provide details about what had been sought

That apparently doesn't stop politicians from blaming Russia. Why not China? You would think both would have a strong interest in the outcome of U.S. elections. Of course we're still scratching our heads trying to understand how either country would have benefited more from Trump--who has taken a hard line on both countries--than from Clinton, whose stated policy positions were essentially the same as Obama's and were exceedingly deferential to both countries.

So far no evidence has emerged showing Trump offered any concessions to Russia. In fact the opposite is true; he's taken a harder stance, unlike the 2012 election where President Obama was caught on mic offering more "flexibility" on deploying missile defenses to Poland to the Russian president. The media didn't cry about Russian collusion then.

http://www.snopes...-russia/
dustywells
5 / 5 (1) Sep 25, 2017
Why is everyone afraid to suggest that the hacking could also be home grown? Do we think that Americans are incapable of using computers to perform election fraud? Both parties had much more to gain by manipulating the outcome than the Russians or the Chinese.
Da Schneib
3.7 / 5 (3) Sep 25, 2017
@assdad, as a simple example IP address tracing. Duhhh ummmm.

Maybe if you actually knew how the Internets work you'd have something meaningful to say.

As for the rest, here's a guy doing a property deal in Moscow during the campaign, and outright asking for Russian hackers to obtain data from his opponent's campaign, right out in front of everybody. Again, duhhh ummm.

As the investigation goes on, more and more data points to what really happened and who did it.

As for Obama, he deployed the missile defense system anyway. On Earth.
TheGhostofOtto1923
1 / 5 (1) Sep 26, 2017
As for the rest, here's a guy doing a property deal in Moscow during the campaign, and outright asking for Russian hackers to obtain data from his opponent's campaign, right out in front of everybody. Again, duhhh ummm
Heres the kind of source Da Scheide uses to get his learned opinions
http://710wor.ihe...nnocent/

-Dont be scared its not youtube-

Oh no my mouse just broke - bad omen
Da Schneib
3.7 / 5 (3) Sep 26, 2017
@Otto, everyone saw littlehands orange jebus calling on the KGB to hack the Clinton campaign. It was on national television.

Then there's this: https://phys.org/...ing.html

Be careful what you ask for, you may get it, and you may be accountable for asking for it.

Maybe you forgot.
gkam
1 / 5 (2) Sep 26, 2017
I'm counting on Mueller, one honest Republican, to sort it all out and get those who indulged in treason.

It was the only way Trump could win - CHEAT!
gkam
1 / 5 (2) Sep 26, 2017


TrumPutin: Today's America!
gkam
1 / 5 (2) Sep 26, 2017
This is American History. Never has the Department of Justice had such a broad and deep case. The Executive Branch of Government has been corrupted by a hostile foreign power!

Putin saw how Cheney and Dubya emotionally-manipulated the goobers, and used it himself, through social media and foolish right-wing outlets.

"WMD!"!

"Benghazi!"

"Emails!"

http://www.reuter...BN17L2N3
TheGhostofOtto1923
not rated yet Sep 26, 2017
@Otto, everyone saw littlehands orange jebus calling on the KGB to hack the Clinton campaign. It was on national television.

Then there's this: https://phys.org/...ing.html

Be careful what you ask for, you may get it, and you may be accountable for asking for it.

Maybe you forgot.
I know and everybody with a sense for humor understood what he was saying. Which didnt include all 2D people like yourself and rachel maddow. Only shes paid to be stupid.

Whats your excuse?

Look
TrumPutin

Dubya

goobers

"WMD!"!

"Benghazi!"

"Emails!"
-see the kind of people whos on your side? Doesnt that tell you something?

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.