Minnesota targeted for election system hacking, state official assures system remains safe

Technology > Security

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The US Department of Homeland Security(DHS) notified officials from Minnesota and 20 other states last September 22 about attempted tampering on election day by hackers from Russia.  

Steve Simon, Minnesota Secretary of State, said via press release: “There was no breach and no attempt to breach Minnesota’s election system.”

According to Simon, officials from the DHS phoned him Friday with the news that Russian hackers scanned IP addresses associated with the Secretary of State’s website for vulnerabilities, “but attempted no further action.”  To which, he stated, “Our system had previously identified these IP addresses scanning our system and blocked them.” He assured people that this is a normal occurrence, further noting that scanning from “outside entities” happens every day.  

Simon also said, “That is why I continue to believe the most serious challenge to the integrity of our election system is the threat of outside forces, including foreign governments, who seek to disrupt and undermine our elections.”  Simon should be up on these things as his office maintains an Information Technology security team to focus on such issues. It also hired an IT security firm before the 2016 election to review security measures and rebuild the department’s website on a more modern and secure platform.

Joe Mansky, the Ramsey County Elections Manager, says the state needs a new voter registration system that is accentuated by Friday’s news.  Mansky said, “We need some help from the Legislature, namely to authorize a new, third-generation voter-registration system that is designed specifically for the security environment we have today.”  He further pressed on the need, stressing that “our current voter registration system was designed in the mid-1990s.”

Illinois is the only state which reported that hackers had success at breaching their system. Meanwhile, Colorado said its system wasn’t quite breached by the hacking.  

The recent DHS findings come in the light of a special counsel probe into Russian hacking of the 2016 presidential election, hacking which President Donald Trump terms a “hoax” while at the same time, saying that Russian President Vladimir Putin has “vehemently denied” any wrongdoings or meddling into the elections across the country.

According to government officials, most of the states that experienced the probing saw preparatory activity like scanning computer systems.  Targets included voter-registration systems but did not include vote tallying software. They also said there were some attempts to compromise networks; however, most did not succeed.