DHS Informs 21 States That Russian Hackers Targeted Their Voting Systems

David Goldman/AP
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The Department of Homeland Security on Friday informed 21 states that their election systems were targeted by “Russian government cyber actors” during the 2016 presidential campaign.

As of late Friday afternoon, the states to acknowledge that the DHS told them they were targeted included Wisconsin, Alabama, Oklahoma, Oregon, Delaware, ColoradoConnecticut and Washington.

Wisconsin’s elections commission claimed in a press release that the Russian hacking activity did not affect election results in the state or the systems themselves.

“Internet security provided by the state successfully protected our systems,” commission administrator Michael Haas said in a statement. “Homeland Security specifically confirmed there was no breach or compromise of our data.”

What the hackers did do was target “Internet-facing election infrastructure,” according to the Wisconsin commission’s account of its debrief from the DHS, in what was apparently an unsuccessful effort to seek access to voter registration databases and other sensitive information.

Alabama Secretary of State John Merrill announced that the DHS saw suspicious traffic from IP addresses on state networks, but that efforts to breach their voting systems were similarly unsuccessful.

Colorado’s elections commissions likened the scan to of their system to “burglars jiggling the doors of a house and moving on when they realize the doors are locked.”

The attempts to infiltrate election systems were one arm of what the U.S. intelligence community has determined was a multi-pronged “influence campaign” to interfere with the 2016 election and swing the results in Donald Trump’s favor. At a Senate Intelligence Committee hearing in June, DHS officials testified about these cyberattacks on U.S. election systems. Bloomberg News had previously reported that Russian hackers had attempted to delete or alter voter data in Illinois, and successfully accessed a campaign finance database in another state.

While some state officials, like Washington Secretary of State Kim Wyman, said they were aware of the attempted intrusion and notified the FBI of the activities, others expressed frustration that the DHS had not brought the cyberattacks to their attention earlier.

Haas, who testified at the June Senate Intelligence Committee hearing that he did not believe Wisconsin was one of the targeted states because he had received no notification from the federal government, said he had asked for more details on when the activity occurred.

This post has been updated.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Allegra Kirkland is a New York-based reporter for Talking Points Memo. She previously worked on The Nation’s web team and as the associate managing editor for AlterNet. Follow her on Twitter @allegrakirkland.
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