The Department of Homeland Security in America has notified 21 states in the country that their election systems were targeted by suspected Russian-affiliated hackers during the 2016 Presidential elections.
The consensus amongst the intelligence community in the US is that members of the Russian government interfered with the US elections. In March 2017, then-FBI director, James Comey noted that the agency was investigating possible collusion between Russian government and the Trump campaign.
Russia is reported to have carried out an “influence campaign” against Hillary Clinton. It hacked the servers of the Democratic National Committee and sent the contents of those emails to Wikileaks. It also hacked the private email of Hillary Clinton’s campaign manager, John Podesta. Wikileaks, in turn, released that content to the public.
21 states in the United States were notified by the Department of Homeland Security that their election systems were targeted by Russia-affiliated hackers in an attempt to influence the 2016 election.
DHS Spokesman Scott McConnell has spoken about the incident noting, “[R]ecognizing that state and local officials should be kept informed about cybersecurity risks to election infrastructure, we are working with them to refine our processes for sharing this information while protecting the integrity of investigations and the confidentiality of system owners.”
Some of the major states that the hackers attempted to breach were - Alabama, Alaska, Arizona, California, Colorado, Connecticut, Delaware, Illinois, Iowa, Maryland, Minnesota, North Dakota, Oklahoma, Oregon, Texas and Washington. Computer systems in these states were scanned. Voter registration systems were also reportedly targeted.
Authorities from some of the these have expressed their concern over having been notified nearly a year after the incidents took place. California Secretary of State Alex Padilla, a Democrat, said in a statement, “It is completely unacceptable that it has taken DHS over a year to inform our office of Russian scanning of our systems, despite our repeated requests for information. The practice of withholding critical information from elections officials is a detriment to the security of our elections and our democracy."
Virginia Senator Mark Warner has also weighed in on the issue. He is a ranking Democrat in a committee that is investigating the Russian interference. He emphasized that such sensitive information should be shared in real-time, so the state authorities can address the cyber breach effectively adding, “We have to do better in the future.”
In September 2017, The Securities and Exchange Commission in America admitted that EDGAR, its corporate filing system was hacked last year.
As we have stated earlier, IT systems of election commissions across the world are susceptible to hacks. The Kenyan general elections were declared null and void after the country’s Supreme Court revealed that there had been a breach in the IT systems of its election commission. One of the biggest threats in the 21st century will be the inability of democratic governments across the world to ensure free and fair elections due to the vulnerability of digitized data and any system that is connected to the grid.