Even though hackers from the Russian government didn’t directly scan election systems in 21 US states, that doesn’t mean Moscow wasn’t looking to break in, the Department of Homeland Security said after complaints about inaccurate reporting.
On Thursday, DHS Spokesman Scott McConnell declined to discuss the specific states the department was alluding to. He said that hackers searched for vulnerabilities to exploit in other government computer systems connected to an “unspecified” number of states, in an attempt to breach election systems, AP reported.
The other networks were usually connected to to the election systems, or shared similarities, McConnell said.
Earlier in the day, Texas Secretary of State Rolando Pablos became the latest state official to complain about the previous statement from Homeland Security about the alleged probe of election systems.
Pablos told the DHS in a letter that his office has “determined conclusively” that they weren’t targeted, adding that DHS investigators relied on “incorrect information.”
Earlier in the week, state officials in Wisconsin and California confirmed receiving conflicting reports from the DHS about which of their computer systems may have been targeted by hackers during the 2016 presidential campaign.
Officials in the two states said the DHS provided information they believed contradicted the notifications received previously. Both California and Wisconsin officials said they were told that Russian hackers targeted computer systems in their state that actually weren’t election-related.
DHS notified California that hackers had targeted the state’s Department of Technology, but Secretary of State Alex Padilla said that California does not use this department for its IT services.
In Wisconsin, the DHS said it was the state’s Department of Workforce Development that was targeted. This agency oversees job training and unemployment benefits. When asked about the latest statement from the DHS, Wisconsin Elections Commission spokesman Reid Magney said the agency was reviewing it, and offered no further comment.
Homeland Security stands by his initial statements about Russia targeting 21 states, however. According to the department spokesman, some of the intelligence used to make that determination cannot be shared with the public.
Last week, the department notified 21 states that their election systems were targeted by “Russian government cyber actors.”
Officials from Alabama, Alaska, Arizona, California, Colorado, Connecticut, Delaware, Florida, Illinois, Iowa, Maryland, Minnesota, North Dakota, Ohio, Oklahoma, Oregon, Pennsylvania, Texas, Virginia, Washington and Wisconsin have publicly acknowledged the notification.