A Department of Homeland Security official acknowledged that more than 21 states could have been targeted by Russian hackers prior to the 2016 election and told lawmakers the department hasn’t seen any similar activity in the lead-up to the 2018 mid-terms. In an April 24 Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee hearing, Jeanette Manfra, assistant secretary for the office of cybersecurity and communications, fended off questions about whether the department had “misled” Congress and the American public about how many states had been targeted by Russian hackers in the lead-up to the 2016 presidential elections. The department has consistently pegged the number of states affected at 21, but Sen. Claire McCaskill (D-Mo.) pointed out that number reflects only the number of states that had sensors or tools in place to capture the scanning activity. Manfra largely agreed with that interpretation.
“The 21 states references the visibility that we had, whether that was the intelligence community or the sensors, of Russian targeting of state infrastructure related to elections,” she said.
When Manfra didn’t provide a clear answer to a question about how many of the remaining 29 states had similar detection capacity, McCaskill accused DHS of failing to provide a complete picture about the scope of the attacks on U.S. election infrastructure.
“That would be something we’d want to know, because I think the American people have been misled here,” said McCaskill. “Because it’s my understanding that a number of the states don’t have the tools to capture that activity, so we really have no idea how many states that Russia tried to hack.”