Another piece of the messed-up puzzle that was the 2016 U.S. presidential election fell into place today, as the Department of Homeland Security confirmed that “Russian government cyber actors” targeted the voter registration system of a key battleground state.
While U.S. officials had already claimed that the Russian government went after 21 states’ voter registration systems, this is the first time that names have been publicly named. And, sorry to say it Wisconsin, you have the dubious distinction of being the state in the spotlight.
According to Reuters, the Department of Homeland Security notified all 21 states on Sept. 22, with Wisconsin Elections Commission Administrator Michael Haas quickly identifying his specific state as being affected soon after.
The news agency reports Haas saying that the Russian government “scanned internet-connected election infrastructure likely seeking specific vulnerabilities such as access to voter registration databases, but the attempt to exploit vulnerabilities was unsuccessful.”
NPR reports that officials from Washington and Connecticut also copped to the fact that their states’ voter registration systems were targeted by Russian government hackers.
Importantly, the voter registration system is not the same as the actual machines used to cast votes — and Matt Tait of cybersecurity firm Capital Alpha Security issued a warning to everyone currently freaking out.
Also since it was unsuccessful I am extremely skeptical of some of these attribution claims.
— Pwn All The Things (@pwnallthethings) September 22, 2017
That sentiment, combined with the fact that DHS officials told Congress in June that it had no proof of actual successful vote tampering by the Russian government, suggests that while this is a big story, it’s not a “Russia stole the election” story.
Still, the fact stands that Wisconsin was a key battleground state in last year’s election, and with today’s revelation we now know that Russian officials were at least up to no good there.
As more officials come out and identify their states as also being targeted, which they are sure to do, we’re likely to get a better picture — piece by hacked piece — of just what went down last year.