Russian hackers likely scanned the election systems of all 50 states for vulnerabilities in 2016 — not just the 21 states confirmed as targets by homeland security officials last year, the cybersecurity czar for former President Barack Obama told a Senate panel Wednesday. “I think it is highly likely,” Michael Daniel replied in answer to a question from Sen. Susan Collins, R-Maine, about whether Russian cyber actors at least scanned the election systems of every state. “It is more likely that we hadn’t detected it than that it didn’t occur.” States have been scrambling to improve their cyber security after Homeland Security officials revealed last year that Russian hackers tried to breach election systems in at least 21 states in 2016. Although no actual votes were changed, hackers broke into Illinois’ voter registration database.
Not all states had the technical ability to detect that Russian hackers scanned their election systems — which include vote tabulation systems as well as voter registration databases.
Daniel told the Senate Intelligence Committee that the federal government should invest more money in cybersecurity for state election systems. Congress recently took a first step by approving $380 million in state grants for election security.
“Maintaining state and local control of elections is very important, but it’s not realistic to expect them on their own to go up against nation-state actors,” he testified.