The US Government Notifies 21 States of 2016 Election Hacks – “Most” Systems Weren’t Breached

Rafia Shaikh
election hack russia
Federal government says 21 states were targets of election hacks last year - most weren't successful. | Image: Michael Klimentyev, Sputnik

The United States federal government has notified election officials in 21 states that hackers targeted their systems last year, however, they weren't successful in "most cases". Contacting state election offices on Friday, The Associated Press reports that officials in Alabama, Arizona, Colorado, Connecticut, Illinois, Iowa, Maryland, Minnesota, Ohio, Oklahoma, Pennsylvania, Virginia, Washington, and Wisconsin, said that they were targeted before the 2016 US elections.

The Department of Homeland Security itself hasn't released the list of targeted states, saying that it will "continue to keep this information confidential and defer to each state whether it wishes to make it public or not".

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The US government notifies 21 states they were 2016 election hack targets - doesn't say who was behind these attacks

The US government had first said that over 20 states were targeted by the hackers ahead of the November election last year, but this is the first notification coming from the Trump administration where the federal government is officially alerting the target states. "For many states, the calls Friday from the Department of Homeland Security were the first official confirmation of whether their states were on the list," AP said. Under the Obama government, the country had also formally accused Russia of trying to influence the country's Presidential election.

While the government has notified the targeted states, it hasn't revealed any details about who was behind the hacking attempts. At least three state election officials, however, have connected the 2016 election hack to Russia. AP reported:

The Wisconsin Election Commission, for example, said the state's systems were targeted by "Russian government cyber actors."

The federal government also hasn't revealed what the hackers sought in these hacks of voter registration systems. They said that the "targeting was preparatory activity such as scanning computer systems," and added that most attempts to compromise networks were unsuccessful. It should be noted that the targets of these hacks appear to be voter registration systems, not the vote tallying software.

"Only Illinois reported that hackers had succeeded in breaching its voter systems," AP report suggests. Trevor Timmons, a spokesperson for the Colorado secretary of state's office, said:

"It's not an attack. I wouldn't call it a probe. It's not a breach, it's not a penetration."

President Trump continues to call the breach of voter systems a "hoax", having recently tweeted that the Russian President has vehemently denied these reports.

Today's calls from the Department of Homeland Security to the 21 states come following the special counsel's probe into the allegations of President Trump's associates colluding with Russia during the 2016 presidential election campaign.

The Democratic side, however, is furious that it took nearly a year after the election for the government to start admitting and notifying the states. "It's unacceptable that it took almost a year after the election hack to notify states that their elections systems were targeted," Senator Mark Warner (D-Va.), the top Democrat on the Intelligence Committee, said.

"But I'm relieved that DHS has acted upon our numerous requests and is finally informing the top elections officials in all 21 affected states that Russian hackers tried to breach their systems in the run up to the 2016 election."

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