US federal government notifies 21 states of elections targeted by hackers

Vastavam web: The US federal government has told election officials in 21 states that hackers targeted their systems before last year’s presidential election.The notification came roughly a year after US Department of Homeland Security officials first said states 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.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 election officials and lawmakers.”The practice of withholding critical information from elections officials is a detriment to the security of our elections and our democracy.”

US 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 defences.”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.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.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.”

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.