Russian hackers targeted Minnesota’s elections website

By Mary Divine

The U.S. Department of Homeland Security says Minnesota’s elections website was unsuccessfully targeted by Russian hackers.

Minnesota was one of 21 states notified Friday of the attempted hacking. Minnesota Secretary of State Steve Simon said the attempted hack had no effect on the 2016 election.

“There was no breach and no attempt to breach Minnesota’s election system,” Simon said in a release.

DHS officials told Simon in a phone call on Friday that Russian hackers scanned IP addresses associated with the Secretary of State’s website for vulnerabilities, “but attempted no further action,” he said.

“Our system had previously identified these IP addresses scanning our system and blocked them,” Simon said.

Scanning from “outside entities” happens every day, Simon 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,” he said.

Simon’s office has an Information Technology security team to focus on such issues. It also hired and IT security firm before the 2016 election to review security measures and rebuild the department’s website on a more modern and secure platform, Simon said Friday afternoon.

Wisconsin’s voter registration system also was unsuccessfully targeted by Russian hackers. Wisconsin Elections Commission administrator Michael Haas said the attempted hack had no effect on Wisconsin’s systems or the outcome of the election.

Haas said security provided by the state successfully protected Wisconsin’s systems. And he said the DHS confirmed there was no breach or compromise of Wisconsin’s data.

The state Elections Commission said DHS told it that Russian hackers scanned Wisconsin’s internet-connected election infrastructure likely seeking specific vulnerabilities such as access to voter registration databases.

Haas said he was seeking more information from Homeland Security. Wisconsin elections officials are putting together a formal security plan in advance of next  fall’s election.

Iowa Secretary of State Paul Pate says the federal government contacted his office Friday to confirm the attempt. Pate says nothing was compromised or hacked. Other states targeted include Alabama, Arizona, Colorado, Connecticut, Illinois, Maryland, Ohio, Oklahoma, Pennsylvania, Virginia and Washington.

The government did not say who was behind the hacking attempts or provide details about what had been sought. But election officials in three states said Friday the attempts could be linked to Russia.

The disclosure to the states comes as a special counsel probes whether there was any coordination during the 2016 presidential campaign between Russia and associates of Donald Trump.

Trump, a Republican who defeated Democrat Hillary Clinton in the presidential election, has called the Russia story a hoax.

Trump also says Russian President Vladimir Putin “vehemently denied” the conclusions of American intelligence agencies.

– Forum News Service