State elections officials said Saturday that they want more information from federal officials to ensure they are protected from cybersecurity threats in light of evidence that foreign operatives plan to try to interfere in the midterm elections. At a conference of state secretaries of state in Washington, several officials said the government was slow to share information about specific threats faced by states during the 2016 election. According to the Department of Homeland Security, Russian government hackers tried to gain access to voter registration files or public election sites in 21 states. Although the hackers are not believed to have manipulated or removed data from state systems, experts worry that the attackers might be more successful this year. And state officials say reticence on the part of Homeland Security to share sensitive information about the incidents could hamper efforts to prepare for the midterms.
The frustrations were evident despite the fact that federal intelligence officials a day earlier had for the first time given a classified briefing to state officials about potential foreign threats on elections.
“We got some new information that was interesting. Did it change the course of what we were going to do or not do [in 2018]? No,” said Michele Reagan, Arizona secretary of state.
The gathering came a day after the Justice Department charged 13 Russians in connection with attempts to interfere in the 2016 elections. The indictments underscored warnings issued by the nation’s top intelligence officials who said earlier in the week that they had already uncovered evidence that Russians and other foreign operators aimed to disrupt the midterms.