Candidates won’t be the only ones sweating the vote as California and six other states hold primaries Tuesday, as election security officials say they are bracing to see how their systems hold up against an expected wave of cyberattacks. U.S. intelligence agencies say Russian hackers tried to disrupt both the campaign and vote-counting in 2016 and that they fully expect another wave of online attacks this year. Hackers last month sabotaged an online debate among congressional candidates by streaming gay pornography. Federal officials say Russian hackers targeted election systems in 21 states two years ago, although no evidence surfaced that any result was corrupted by the incursions. Tuesday’s primaries will be the largest single block of states voting on one day ahead of November’s fiercely contested midterm elections and the largest election day since November 2016.
“This is an issue that the administration takes seriously and is addressing with urgency,” Homeland Security Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen, FBI Director Christopher A. Wray and Director of National Intelligence Daniel Coats told Congress in a joint statement last month at a briefing on election security and cyberattacks.
State and federal officials readily acknowledge that fears linger from the 2016 experience, and leading U.S. intelligence officials have issued repeated warnings that Kremlin operatives are prepared to strike during the November midterms, but many have also noted positive moves to improve communications among states and the Department of Homeland Security.