HARTFORD, Conn. (CBSNewYork/AP) – Homeland Security officials say hackers tried breaching the election systems of 21 states, including Connecticut, ahead of last year’s presidential election.
In some states, computer systems were scanned but not breached. Vote counting software was not compromised.
The federal government did not say who was behind the hacking attempts or provide details about what had been sought. But election officials in several states — including Connecticut — said the attempts were linked to Russia.
Russia has denied involvement.
Being targeted does not mean that sensitive voter data was manipulated or results were changed. A hacker targeting a system without getting inside is similar to a burglar circling a house checking for unlocked doors and windows.
Even so, the widespread nature of the attempts and the yearlong lag time in notification from Homeland Security raised concerns among some election officials and lawmakers.
For many states, the Friday calls were the first official confirmation of whether their states were on the list — even though state election officials across the country have been calling for months for the federal government to share information about any hacks, as have members of Congress.
“It is completely unacceptable that it has taken DHS over a year to inform our office of Russian scanning of our systems, despite our repeated requests for information,” California Secretary of State Alex Padilla, a Democrat, said in a statement. “The practice of withholding critical information from elections officials is a detriment to the security of our elections and our democracy.”
U.S. Sen. Mark Warner, of Virginia, the top Democrat on a committee that’s investigating Russian meddling in last year’s election, has been pushing the department for months to reveal the identities of the targeted states. He said states need such information in real time so they can strengthen their cyber defenses.
“We have to do better in the future,” he said.
Homeland Security said it recognizes that state and local officials should be kept informed about cybersecurity risks to election infrastructure.
“We are working with them to refine our processes for sharing this information while protecting the integrity of investigations and the confidentiality of system owners,” it said in a statement.
(© Copyright 2017 CBS Broadcasting Inc. All Rights Reserved. The Associated Press contributed to this report.)