House lawmakers on Monday passed legislation that would codify into law the Department of Homeland Security’s cyber incident response teams that help protect federal networks and critical infrastructure from cyberattacks. Lawmakers passed the bill, sponsored by House Homeland Security Committee Chairman Michael McCaul (R-Texas), in a voice vote Monday afternoon. The legislation would authorize the “cyber hunt and incident response teams” at Homeland Security to help owners and operators of critical infrastructure respond to cyberattacks as well as provide strategies for mitigating cybersecurity risks.
With the Illinois primary just days away, state election officials are beefing up cyber defenses and scanning for possible intrusions into voting systems and voter registration rolls. They have good reason to be on guard: Two years ago, Illinois was the lone state known to have its state election system breached in a hacking effort that ultimately targeted 21 states. Hackers believe to be connected to Russia penetrated the state’s voter rolls, viewing data on some 76,000 Illinois voters, although there is no indication any information was changed. Since then, Illinois election officials have added firewalls, installed software designed to prevent intrusions and shifted staffing to focus on the threats. The state has been receiving regular cyber scans from the federal government to identify potential weak spots and has asked the U.S. Department of Homeland Security to conduct a comprehensive risk assessment. That assessment is scheduled but will not happen before Tuesday’s second-in the-nation primary.
Minnesota: Citing Russian threat, Secretary of State asking for $1.4 million to update voter registration system | Twin Cities Pioneer Press
Citing national security officials’ warnings that Minnesota’s voter database had already been targeted by elements “at the behest of the Russian government,” the secretary of state is asking for funding to update its statewide registration system. Minnesota Secretary of State Steve Simon said he’s been in multiple meetings with Department of Homeland Security officials — including a meeting as late as February — relating to foreign attempts to affect the integrity of Minnesota’s voting system. “They are sobering,” Simon said of the meetings, for which he was recently given “secret” security clearance — meaning, he said, he couldn’t give too many details. In 2016, entities associated with the Russian government targeted 21 states, including Minnesota, national security officials have said. Two of those states — Illinois and Arizona — had their state databases penetrated.
Before the 2016 election, at least 21 U.S. states’ registration databases or websites were targeted by hackers and seven states were successfully “compromised,” although there’s no evidence that votes were altered. As U.S. intelligence agencies recently made clear, the risk to voting systems continues in 2018. Foreign actors could target registration records, electronic voting machines or vote tabulations. Because American elections are controlled by individual states that employ a wide array of voting systems, a localized breach is especially feasible. Amplifying the danger is that many Americans will react to vote manipulation somewhere in the United States with doubts about election results everywhere. Even if this interference does not actually change an election outcome, people may use any breach to cast doubt on outcomes they don’t want to believe. This havoc is precisely what Russia wants.
National: Trump Administration Penalizes Russians Over Election Meddling and Cyberattacks | The New York Times
The Trump administration imposed sanctions on a series of Russian organizations and individuals on Thursday in retaliation for interference in the 2016 presidential election and other “malicious cyberattacks,” its most significant action against Moscow since President Trump took office. The sanctions came as the United States joined with Britain, France and Germany in denouncing Russia for its apparent role in a nerve-gas attack on a former Russian spy and his daughter on British soil, calling it a “clear violation” of international law. But the joint statement said nothing about any collective action in response. In his first comment on the poison attack, Mr. Trump agreed that, despite its denials, Russia was likely behind it. “It looks like it,” he told reporters in the Oval Office, adding that he had spoken with Prime Minister Theresa May of Britain.
Colombian government and military officials say the government is investigating tens of thousands of cyberattacks on the country’s voter registration systems, and traced the incidents to Russia’s key allies in the region. More than 50,000 attacks on the web platform of Colombia’s national voter registry were detected during the run-up to March 11 parliamentary elections, according to Defense Minister Luis Villegas, who said some of the hacks were staged from Venezuela, which has become a proxy for Russia. While Villegas did not specifically mention Russia at a March 8 press conference in which he denounced the ongoing incidents, he said three of the hacks — which each triggered repeated robotic attacks — were linked to internet addresses in Colombia, while one was identified as coming from Venezuela. Colonel Jose Marulanda, a Colombian intelligence analyst, said Russia was seeking a foothold in the region.
The weakest link in any local voting system is that one county clerk who’s been on the job for three days and opens up an email file that could take down the whole system. The head of every U.S. intelligence agency says Russia attempted to penetrate elections systems nationwide during the 2016 presidential election, and will try again during this year’s midterm elections. In a decentralized election system with more than 10,000 separate jurisdictions, the onus for security is on local officials. “That keeps me awake at night,” said Nancy Blankenship, the clerk for Deschutes County, Oregon. Blankenship, like thousands of other county clerks, is the chief elections official for her area. It’s not so much the threat of foreign hackers changing votes that concerns Blankenship — Oregon is not only a vote-by-mail state, but also does its ballot counting without an internet connection — it’s the possibility that hacking could undermine public confidence in the system.
Editorials: Tennessee needs to update its election system and both parties agree | Shanna Singh Hughey/The Tennesseean
Should Tennessee be doing more to safeguard our elections? According to a ThinkTennessee poll, 68 percent of Tennessee voters think so. And with good reason. The Department of Homeland Security this fall informed 21 states that their 2016 elections were targeted by Russian hackers. Thankfully, Tennessee was not one of those states. But as the CIA director recently said, he has “every expectation” that Russia will continue to try to interfere with the upcoming midterm elections.
The software that will be used to count votes in the upcoming municipal elections is still not safe. Hackers can use the vulnerable software to influence the election results, experts that examined the software told RTL Nieuws. Ethical hacker Sijmen Ruwhof discovered more than 50 vulnerabilities in the software. He calls ten of them ‘high risk’. Last year Ruwhof also concluded that the software – called OSV – is vulnerable to attacks. “The average iPad is more secure than the Dutch voting system”, Ruwhof said at the time.This prompted former Home Affairs Minister Ronald Plasterk to order the votes in the parliamentary election counted by hand.
National: There’s more to Russia’s cyber interference than the Mueller probe suggests | The Washington Post
An underlying theme running through special counsel Robert S. Mueller III’s investigation is that Russia’s ultimate goal was to make sure Donald Trump was elected president. That’s just part of the picture. Last month, Mueller’s team released the details of the grand jury indictments of 13 Russian nationals, as well as a shadowy Russian firm known as the Internet Research Agency, for conducting information warfare against the United States and breaking three U.S. federal laws. Our research looks at Russian cyber and information warfare activity — and distinct patterns begin to emerge. But this is a nonlinear strategy and a long-term assault on Russia’s adversaries. Although boosting the Trump campaign may have been one of Russia’s primary goals in 2016, the 2020 goal could just as easily be helping the president’s Democratic challenger.