For Immediate Release
September 25, 2017
WASHINGTON, DC - On Friday, September 22, 2017, the US Department of Homeland Security (DHS) contacted 21 chief state election officials whose states were targeted by hackers during the 2016 election season.
Based on information from DHS and initial feedback from states targeted, the activity appears to have consisted mainly of efforts to “scan” state systems for vulnerabilities. While numerous media reports have been describing the activity as “election hacking,” it is important to clarify that scanning is used by would-be attackers to look for open doors into networks. The scans found that the doors were locked. In no case was voter information altered or deleted. Additionally, there is no evidence that voting systems were targeted, or that the administration of the election, including tallying of results, was impacted in any way.
It is not clear why DHS waited a year to share this information with chief state election officials. The fact that state systems effectively thwarted these hacking attempts is a positive outcome.
For the past year, NASS members have urged DHS and federal law enforcement agencies to immediately share threat intelligence information and notify all election officials who are targeted by hackers. Election officials are charged with protecting the election systems and should have all the actionable information available. The security of our voting process is a top priority for Secretaries of State who serve as chief state election officials. Secretaries know that effective cyber defense is a daily battle, as attempts to penetrate state networks are an ongoing threat that states confront on a daily basis.
On a recent call with the Elections Committee of the National Association of Secretaries of State (NASS), DHS acknowledged that information on these failed attempts should have been shared with the Secretaries sooner. NASS members were pleased to learn that DHS has prioritized improved communications with state election officials moving forward.
Founded in 1904, NASS is the oldest, nonpartisan professional organization of public officials in the U.S. Membership is open to the 50 states and all U.S. territories. NASS serves as a medium for the exchange of information between states and fosters cooperation in the development of public policy.
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