An official with the Department of Homeland Security, the agency charged with protecting American elections from hacking attempts, stated that voter registration rolls were in fact penetrated before the presidential election in 2016 took place. While 21 states were targeted by hackers, not all attempts were successful. But some of them were.
According to NBC News, a top US official with DHS confirmed that a “small number” of state’s voter systems were penetrated by the “Russian government.”
Head of Cybersecurity at DHS, Jeanette Manfra, stated, “We saw a targeting of 21 states and an exceptionally small number of them were actually successfully penetrated” in 2016, though said that she could not discuss any of the associated classified information publicly.
Jeh Johnson, the DHS secretary at the time of the intrusions, said, “2016 was a wake-up call and not it’s incumbent upon states and the Feds to do something about it before our democracy is attacked again.”
“We were able to determine that the scanning and probing of voter registration databases was coming from the Russian government,” Johnson added.
US officials say that there is no evidence that the penetrated voter registration rolls were changed in any way.
However, there is concern that not enough has been done to protect these systems, now classified as part of the country’s federally protected “critical infrastructure,” in the future.
Johnson stated that little has been done by the states “to actually harden their cybersecurity” since the 2016 presidential election.
Manfra disagrees with Johnson’s perspective, saying that the states “have all taken it seriously.”
Some states included on the list of 21 have denied they were attacked, and many states have complained that not enough specific threat details have been provided by the federal government, claiming that those state officials did not have the appropriate clearances to review the classified information, which could stymie any efforts to make marked improvements.
A number of states have also asserted that they are waiting for assistance from the federal government regarding cybersecurity matters, though Manfra said there isn’t a waiting list and that DHS will provide help to everyone.