2016 Election, Issues, Russia

Did Russia hack the elections or not? California and Wisconsin say no.


We’re still looking for Boris and Natasha.

Image Credit: Clancy Ratliff CC by SA 2.0

First, it was reports that Wisconsin’s voter registration systems had not been breached by Russian hackers, and now California has a similar story.

On Wisconsin, per the Associated Press, “The state was initially told that hackers had attempted to scan its internet-connected election infrastructure, likely seeking specific vulnerabilities to access voter registration databases. Days later, the Wisconsin Elections Board was told by Homeland Security officials that the scanning involved the state’s Department of Workforce Development, which oversees job training and unemployment benefits.”

And in California, according to Secretary of State Alex Padilla, “Last Friday, my office was notified by the U.S. Department of Homeland Security (DHS) that Russian cyber actors ‘scanned’ California’s Internet-facing systems in 2016, including Secretary of State websites. Following our request for further information, it became clear that DHS’ conclusions were wrong. DHS confirmed that Russian scanning activity had actually occurred on the California Department of Technology statewide network, not any Secretary of State website. Based on this additional information, California voters can further rest assured that the California Secretary of State elections infrastructure and websites were not hacked or breached by Russian cyber actors.”

So, wait. How does DHS mistake a state’s voter registration system for its Department of Workforce Development that handles unemployment benefits?

Or the Secretary of State’s website and election infrastructure with its Department of Technology, which has nothing to do with elections in California but instead handles information technology at unrelated state agencies?

DHS had notified 21 states in total of supposed Russian hacking: Alabama, Alaska, Arizona, California, Colorado, Connecticut, Delaware, Florida, Illinois, Iowa, Maryland, Minnesota, North Dakota, Ohio, Oklahoma, Oregon, Pennsylvania, Texas, Virginia, Washington, and Wisconsin.

DHS has since issued a statement that it “stands by its assessment that Internet-connected networks in 21 states were the target of Russian government cyber actors seeking vulnerabilities and access to U.S. election infrastructure.”

Shouldn’t it be 19 states now, assuming these are the only discrepancies with the original assessment? And note the malleable words, “Internet-connected networks in 21 states,” which sounds a lot less certain than was originally billed.

The Director of National Intelligence assessment was more specific in January, “Russian intelligence accessed elements of multiple state or local electoral boards.”

Prior to the election in October, DHS had issued a joint assessment stating, “Some states have also recently seen scanning and probing of their election-related systems, which in most cases originated from servers operated by a Russian company. However, we are not now in a position to attribute this activity to the Russian Government.”

But, added the statement, “States ensure that voting machines are not connected to the Internet, and there are numerous checks and balances as well as extensive oversight at multiple levels built into our election process.” In other words, nobody ever thought ballots had been tampered with or could have been in the first place. Leading to the obvious question: If there was no danger to the integrity of the elections, why were assessments being issued before they took place?

In the meantime, no word yet on other discrepancies to do with these assessments or what evidence led DHS to originally issue the warning a year ago. Also, no explanation has been given for why it took DHS a year to even provide information about the supposed breach to the states said to have been targeted.

Elections are run by the states. Wasn’t this supposed to be some sort of an emergency? Russia was hacking our election systems. It was an attack on our democracy comparable to a cyber Pearl Harbor. Yet it wasn’t until last week basic information was provided to the states, many of which have held primaries and other special elections in the intervening months using those very systems that were supposedly compromised.

But now we know much of it did not even constitute a real threat to the election systems, which might remind everyone of the intelligence services pivot from Iraqi weapons of mass destruction to weapons of mass destruction capabilities last decade when the weapons stocks could not be found.

How do you go from “election-related systems” and “state or local election boards” to “Internet-connected networks in 21 states” including unrelated IT departments and workforce development departments “seeking vulnerabilities and access to U.S. election infrastructure”?

It seems like that DHS is back-tracking, and now at least California and Wisconsin know why.

This is a guest post by Robert Romano Vice President of Public Policy at Americans for Limited Government.
  • zappafan1A

    Voting machines aren’t connected to the internet, and therefore cannot be “hacked.”

    • Robert

      Voter registration does not need to be hacked it is public information, that anyone can see. Accessing the labor department could assist anyone wanting to direct information false or other wise to that type of person to influence their voting. decision. In 2015 in one of the states they found that someone had found a way to hack the voting machine program, but they supposedly blocked it. One of the oldest tricks about intrusion let them find the fake trail or marker and they know how to stop you when that is only a decoy the same thing the illegals use on the border, let a few get caught so maybe 100 can get through, and all they do with the ones who get caught is register them and put them back across the border and those have made $100 each, in the man time 100 real illegals are on their way.

  • daves

    Who on the left is claiming that the election was hacked?

    I know all the security agencies say that Russia worked hard to influence the election so that President Trump would win. There are investigations into whether the Trump campaign colluded with the Russians. But I am not aware of the claims of hacking.

    • We’veBeenInvaded

      You idiots have cast so many accusations and made so many assertions that you can’t remember them all or keep them all straight anymore.. Pitiful dull minded Liberal..

      • daves

        More like the minister of propaganda is trying to confuse you with hacking and colluding.

        • We’veBeenInvaded

          You’re an IDIOT,
          There was no hacking on the part of the Russians, there was some that the NSA did on behalf of Hillary in at least 6 states, the Democrat crime syndicate also stole millions of votes for Hillary along with letting millions of illegals vote (ALL THESE THINGS ARE DOCUMENTED, BUT IGNORED) and the only collusion was between Hillary and the mainstream MEDIA and the deep state, “ALSO DOCUMENTED AND IGNORED”!!.

          • daves

            It appears that you are confused by their propaganda.

            Documented in fake news only.

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