As the United States gears up for the presidential election in November, lawmakers are raising concerns over the cybersecurity of US voting systems. Homeland Security Secretary Jeh Johnson said on Saturday that hackers have been probing multiple state voting systems, although there is yet to be a sign of actual manipulation of voting information.
Johnson urged states to seek cybersecurity assistance from the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) ahead of the elections. So far, 21 states have contacted DHS regarding their cybersecurity resources.
“These challenges aren’t just in the future — they are here today,” Johnson said. “In recent months, malicious cyber actors have been scanning a large number of state systems, which could be a preamble to attempted intrusions. In a few cases, we have determined that malicious actors gained access to state voting-related systems. However, we are not aware at this time of any manipulation of data.”
Attempts to influence the elections via cyberspace culminated this summer with the hack of the Democratic National Committee, which resulted in the publication of a trove of internal emails. As Homeland Security Today previously reported, several cybersecurity firms, including Crowdstrike, have linked the intrusions to Russia. FBI
Director James Comey told the House Judiciary Committee this past week that the FBI is investigating what Russia may be doing to disrupt the US election. He said, “There have been a variety of scanning activities—which are a preamble for potential intrusion activity—as well as some attempted intrusions at voter registration databases beyond those we knew about in July and August.”
Comey added, “We are urging states to make sure their deadbolts are thrown and their locks are on.”
Congressional leaders sent a bipartisan letter on Wednesday to the National Association of State Election Directors emphasizing the need to ramp up efforts to bolster election security. The letter was sent by House Speaker Paul Ryan (R-WI), Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-CA), Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY), and Minority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV).
The lawmakers highlighted the availability of DHS to provide cybersecurity help to states and the importance of leveraging all available resources to mitigate cyberattacks. The letter also noted that taking advantage of this assistance will not entail federal control of states’ administration of elections.
“Today, the states face the challenge of malefactors that are seeking to use cyberattacks to disrupt the administration of our elections,” the letter wrote. “We urge the states to take full advantage of the robust public and private sector resources available to them to ensure that their network infrastructure is secure from attack.”