Top election officials in two states say the Department of Homeland Security gave them faulty information last week when it said Russian hackers scanned their election systems last year. The accusations underscore the persistent barriers in information sharing as the federal government and states try to respond to hacking in last year’s election. DHS informed election officials in 21 states on Friday that Russian hackers had tried to access voter information, the first time many states found out they had been targeted. DHS has faced criticism for being slow to share information with states. Now election officials in Wisconsin and California say DHS has provided them with additional information showing that Russian hackers actually scanned networks at other state agencies unconnected to voter data. In Wisconsin, DHS told officials on Tuesday that hackers had scanned an IP address belonging to the Department of Workforce Development, not the Wisconsin Elections Commission. … Scott McConnell, a DHS spokesman, said in a statement the agency stood by its assessment that 21 states were targeted by Russian hackers last year. He suggested hackers still could have targeted election records, even if they did not target the IP addresses of the state’s election body.
… Hackers can look broadly for a vulnerability to access the information they want, said Candice Hoke, the founding co-director of Center for Cybersecurity and Privacy Protection at the Cleveland-Marshall College of Law.
“The key point here is that hackers are quite knowledgeable about network configuration blunders that allow access to a sought system or resource — like election operations — via a less valuable asset that is internet facing or less well defended,” she wrote in an email. “Unquestionably, hackers will attempt to gain access to election and other mission critical governmental systems through systems having no connection to elections. They often are simply exploring to see what’s possible, what network architecture mistakes can be exploited.”