Senators ask feds for ‘full account’ of work to secure election from cyber threats

Senators ask feds for ‘full account’ of work to secure election from cyber threats

Democratic senators are asking a federal agency that helps certify and secure voting systems for a “full account” of its work to secure the 2016 election from Russian hackers. 

The senators, led by Amy KlobucharAmy Jean KlobucharFive top 2020 Democrats haven't committed to MSNBC climate forum Abrams helps launch initiative to train women activists, organizers The Hill's Morning Report - Trump takes 2020 roadshow to New Mexico MORE (D-Minn.), also want the Election Assistance Commission (EAC) to detail cybersecurity challenges facing state and local officials as they look to safeguard future elections. 

The intelligence community concluded in an unclassified report released in January that Russia engaged in a cyber and disinformation campaign during the election to undermine U.S. democracy and damage Democratic nominee Hillary ClintonHillary Diane Rodham ClintonTrump's economic approval takes hit in battleground states: poll This is how Democrats will ensure Trump's re-election The Hill's Morning Report - Trump takes 2020 roadshow to New Mexico MORE.

Intelligence officials determined that “Russian intelligence accessed elements of multiple state or local electoral boards,” though they found no systems involved in voting tallying were breached. 

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Nearly all 50 states asked for help from the Department of Homeland Security to secure their voting systems ahead of the presidential election, following reports that election databases in Illinois and Arizona had been breached by hackers.

The EAC certifies voting systems and helps state and local election officials make sure elections are accurate and secure. In December, the commission said it was investigating a possible cyberattack on its web-facing systems. 

“We are writing to request a full account of the EAC’s efforts in the cybersecurity sphere in 2016,” the senators wrote in a letter to the commissioners, according to a Friday release.

“Based on your work with election officials, cybersecurity experts and federal law enforcement, we also would appreciate an impartial assessment of the challenges that state and local election officials face in protecting future U.S. elections from cybersecurity threats,” they wrote. 

Twenty-six senators, including Independents Angus KingAngus Stanley KingOvernight Defense: Dems grill Trump Army, Air Force picks | House chair subpoenas Trump Afghanistan negotiator | Trump officials release military aid to Ukraine Democrats grill Army, Air Force nominees on military funding for border wall Bipartisan panel to issue recommendations for defending US against cyberattacks early next year MORE (Maine) and Bernie SandersBernie SandersChamber of Commerce argues against Democratic proposals for financial transaction taxes Top Sanders adviser: 'He is a little bit angry' Working Families Party endorses Warren after backing Sanders in 2016 MORE (Vt.), signed onto the letter. 

The lawmakers expressed “deep concerns” about potential Russian interference in future U.S. elections and the federal government, alluding to former national security adviser Michael Flynn’s contact with Russian Ambassador Sergey Kislyak, which forced Flynn to resign from his post earlier this month.

They also underscored the need to make future cybersecurity upgrades to voting systems in order to ensure their security. 

“As motivated and sophisticated cybercriminals will continue to target our election systems, we must ensure that our state and local election administrators have the resources they need to make critical cybersecurity upgrades,” the senators wrote.

“Aging machines are vulnerable to hacking since they lack the latest security features. In 2016, 43 states used electronic voting machines that were at least 10 years old,” they wrote. “While there was no reported damage to actual voting machines or voter registration data last year, we hope you will agree when we say that the 2016 election was a wake-up call. We must do more to protect our U.S. elections from foreign interference.”

The senators asked the commissioners to describe “the full extent of foreign interference and hacking that occurred in any national, state or local election system” during the November election, in addition to a series of other questions.