Federal Government Informs Local Election Officials of Possible Russian Election Hack

Almost nothing has been more (frightfully) entertaining than Trump’s tweets. His most recent back-and-forth with the NBA champion Golden State Warriors has been particularly entertaining. But at the top of Donald’s tweet fest has been the reports and speculation that the November election was partially due to Russian hackers. It’s a saga that is almost a year old, yet still grabbing headlines. And finally, after nearly 9 months of speculation, they’re admitting it. Well, at least they’re admitting to an attempt at Russian election hacks. Whether that attempt was by the Russians or was successful is still to be debated.

The federal government has formally let states know that their election systems might have been the target of Russian election hacks. This isn’t news, though. In fact, the U.S. Department of Homeland Security informed Congress of this very thing earlier this summer. They suspected 21 of the 50 US states were targeted.

The news being revealed now by the associated press is that the federal government has finally reached out to the local election officials of the targeted states, letting them know of the threat. The Russian election hacks took place before the 2016 presidential election last November. Some of the 21 states that were targeted are, Alabama, Alaska, Arizona, California, Colorado, Connecticut, Delaware, Florida, Illinois, Iowa, Maryland, Minnesota, Ohio, Oklahoma, Oregon, Pennsylvania, Virginia, Washington, and Wisconsin.  Equally as interesting are the states that weren’t included on this list; Georgia, Kansas, Kentucky, Louisiana, New Mexico, and North Carolina being some of those.

“Internet-connected election-related networks, including websites, in 21 states were potentially targeted by Russian government cyber actors,” said Department of Homeland Security acting deputy undersecretary for cybersecurity and communications Jeanette Manfra. At the time the states that were targeted were not revealed, until now.

According to NPR, the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) contacted the election officials in each of the 21 states and 6 territories to “fill them in on what information the agency has about election hacking attempts in their state last year.” Also it is important to note that just because a state was targeted, does not mean the attempt was successful. It is more likely that the attempts were, “preparatory activity such as scanning computer systems,” according to the AP, and that “attempts to compromise networks were mostly unsuccessful.”

State election officials have been complaining for months for more information regarding the Russian election hacks. The information the government can provide concerning the past attacks does much more than give more mud for a political party to sling.

It helps officials know how to protect elections from future hacks, particularly the state elections coming up this fall. “We recognize that it is important for senior state election officials to know what happens on their state systems,” said Bob Kolasky, acting deputy undersecretary for DHS’s National Protection and Programs Directorate.

As fall elections approach, this information will help election officials make the necessary adjustments to keep their elections (somewhat) controversy free. For example, Virginia has been working to replace some of their equipment over these security concerns.

This information isn’t new. And if anything it refuels a fire that didn’t need any more gasoline. But hopefully, more states can make the necessary adjustments for this upcoming fall.

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