Election officials report spike in foreign hacking attempts: report

Election officials report spike in foreign hacking attempts: report
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Hackers have attempted to breach U.S. election systems more than 160 times since August, according to a federal election threats report viewed by The Boston Globe.

Department of Homeland Security (DHS) reports show that foreign hackers have made dozens of new pushes to try to access U.S. election systems, like voter registration databases, in the weeks ahead of Tuesday's elections, the Globe reported on Monday.

Officials have publicly said that they have been able to prevent cyberattacks on election systems.

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A DHS cybersecurity official told the Globe that the hacking attempts are similar to those used by Russia ahead of the 2016 election, but that they have not yet attributed the attacks to any one foreign entity.

"We’re seeing the same thing; the only difference is now we aren’t saying Russia,” the official told the newspaper.

The DHS report states that the hackers have had “limited success.” For example, a senior official leading a state’s election systems saw their personal social media account hacked on Oct. 23. It was then reregistered with a Russian email account, according to the Globe.

DHS spokesman Scott McConnell said in a statement to The Hill that state and local election officials are sharing more information about the kind of cyberattacks they are experiencing.

“This does not mean that our partners are seeing an increase in cyber threats to their networks,” he said. “DHS is committed to sharing timely and actionable information, like what is outlined in the intelligence report, with our elections partners.”

McConnell said the strategies being used by cyber actors are “common and not unique to election systems."

“To be clear, we have not attributed any of this activity to a nation-state, nor do we have any reason to believe it to be part of a broader campaign,” he added. “DHS and our state and local election partners are aware of the ongoing threats to election infrastructure and we continue to work every day to secure and increase the resilience of our nation’s elections.”

Election officials at all levels of government have stepped up their efforts to guard U.S. election systems from cyber threats after Russia was found to have successfully interfered in the 2016 election.

Vermont Secretary of State Jim Condos told The Hill last month that his state's voter registration database has been targeted by foreign actors, including one appearing to be labeled as the Russian Federation, and that the state reported it to DHS.

He and other officials have said the cyber actors are largely scanning for vulnerabilities that they can then exploit to attack an election system.