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Padilla Faults DHS on Russian Cyberwarning; CDT Says Safeguards Worked

30 September 2017, 03:42 | Gretchen Simon

DHS Was Wrong About Russians Targeting At Least Two States' Election Systems


He declined to discuss specific states.

In both California and Wisconsin, the hackers could've been aiming for election systems even though they targeted other departments.

State officials are punching holes in recent claims by the federal government that their election systems were targeted a year ago by hackers believed to be Russian agents.

Texas Secretary of State Rolando Pablos sent DHS a letter saying federal investigators got it wrong and there was no attempted hack on his agency's website.

California and Wisconsin said the U.S. Department of Homeland Security was incorrect when it notified them last week they were among 21 states whose election systems were targeted by Russian hackers during the 2016 election. The formal notification came after months of state election officials voicing frustration that the department had left them and the public in the dark for so long. The DHS is now claiming that these hackers targeted the California Department of Technology and the Wisconsin Department of Workforce Development. Specifically, those state officials said they were told that the Russian hackers targeted computers systems that weren't related to their elections.

"It is not clear why DHS waited a year to share this information with chief state election officials", they said.

The Wisconsin Elections Commission announced Friday that Russian cyber actors did target Wisconsin computers two separate times in 2016 to try and get to voter information, according to a release.

If DHS was aware of this in October 2016, then it seems that when the department was accused of trying to hack election systems in several states, that would have been a flawless time to explain why.

California Secretary of State Alex Padilla is criticizing the U.S. Department of Homeland Security over an erroneous warning that his department was among those in state government that had been "scanned" by Russian "cyber actors". He noted that some of the intelligence used to make that determination can not be shared publicly.

Unfortunately, DHS did not initially provide the information supporting its conclusion that Russian government cyber actors targeted Wisconsin's voter registration system by attempting to scan another state agency. But officials in IL have confirmed that hackers broke into the voter registration network for at least three weeks before being discovered in July 2016. "The practice of withholding critical information from elections officials is a detriment to the security of our elections and our democracy". A DHS spokesman said, "When DHS conducts a cybersecurity scan of a network or system, we do so only with the cooperation and consent of the system owner".

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